Editorial: Democrats pushing for socialized health care

In a speech in Illinois this past week former President Obama called “Medicare for all” a “good new idea.”

He said, “It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day, let alone retirement. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like Medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate debt-free.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders actually has such a bill pending that would nationalize and socialize the U.S. health care system and claims he has 16 Democratic senators supporting it. Sanders has argued that the United States spends almost three times as much on health care per capita as the British, who have a socialized system.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto said in August she supports an eventual move to a “Medicare-for-All” but that it is not immediately plausible.

“I applaud the concept, I understand what they’re trying to do at the end of the day, which is get us to the day where we have health care that everybody has and they can afford,” she said in an interview with the online news site The Nevada Independent. “And what it looks like, you can call it whatever you want, but we’ve got to take incremental steps along the way and bring everybody along.”

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller meanwhile is said to be leaning toward supporting a move by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, who would take money spent under the Affordable Care Act and give it to states in the form of block grants.

As for Medicare for all, a recent George Mason University’s Mercatus Center study found Sanders’ plan would add $32.6 trillion to federal spending in its first 10 years and costs would steadily rise from there. Doubling corporate and individual income taxes wouldn’t cover the costs.

The proposal also would amount to a roughly 40 percent cut across the board in payments to doctors and hospitals, a devastating blow to the economy. With rural hospitals already going out of business, image how many more would have to close and how many doctors would retire or change professions.

As if the costs were not enough, that aforementioned British socialized health system earlier this year was forced to cancel 50,000 non-emergency surgeries due to hospital overcrowding. Emergency room waits were said to be as long as 12 hours.

You don’t have to pay as much for something you don’t get.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Obama calls for Medicare for all. (Getty Images pix)

 

Editorial: Which Senate candidate is right about Social Security?

We find Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen’s sanguine and naive response to the recent 83rd anniversary of Social Security Act disturbing to say the least.

Rosen put out a press release touting the fact she had met with a senior citizen group in Henderson to mark the anniversary.

“Social Security successfully lifts millions out of poverty and helps ensure economic security for Nevada seniors when they retire after a lifetime of hard work,” Rosen was quoted as saying. “These are benefits our seniors have earned, and Nevadans deserve another Senator who is committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security. Unfortunately, Senator (Dean) Heller is yet another Washington politician who wants to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax cuts for his ultra-wealthy donors.”

She paid no heed to the fact the so-called Social Security trust fund that she apparently wants to “save” is not going broke, but already is broke.

According to an article in The Hill by Merrill Matthews, this year Social Security must pay out more money than it receives from the payroll tax of 12.4 percent on current paychecks. This is the first time that has happened since 1982.

You see that trust fund of $2.9 trillion has already been spent and replaced with what are essentially IOUs. “Thus the government must borrow the money — or raise taxes — to redeem its IOUs so Social Security can pay benefits,” Matthews writes.

If some reform is not instituted in a few years benefits will have to be cut to 75 cents on the dollar or less.

Some have suggested cutting benefits for the rich and raising the retirement age. Others have suggested allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private accounts.

Rosen specifically chastised her Senate opponent, Republican incumbent Heller, for having supported partial privatization in the past. Historically, such private accounts would likely pay retirees far more than Social Security ever can.

Rosen’s press release also screeched, “Sen. Heller is an architect of the reckless Republican tax bill that will add nearly $2 trillion to the debt and put Medicare and Social Security at risk,” paying no heed to the fact tax revenue has actually increased since the tax bill was enacted and the increased deficit and debt are due entirely to continued excessive spending by both political parties.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018 revenues were up $26 billion, but spending increased by $143 billion.

No Band-Aid will stanch the hemorrhaging at the Social Security. It is fundamentally flawed. Eight decades ago when the Social Security Act was passed there were 40 workers for every retiree. The ratio is rapidly approaching 2 to 1.

Social Security was and is a Ponzi scheme. That’s when early investors are paid with money invested by newcomers. When the newcomers stop coming, the scheme goes bust.

Stephen Moore wrote an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily a couple of years ago explaining, “From the moment Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security in 1935, the system was set up as a classic Ponzi scheme.”

Moore said there are options to fix the program, such as giving younger workers the option of partial privatization. For example, giving them the option of putting 10 percent of their 12.4 percent payroll tax dollars into an individual account. Moore estimated, “At historic rates of return, this would give workers a 7% return per year, which would let them retire as millionaires after 40 years of work. They’d receive two to three times more than Social Security promises.”

Or we can do like Rosen suggest — just wait for the whole darned thing to collapse.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Poll shows tight races for senator and governor

A poll for the Reno Gazette-Journal by Suffolk University of Boston shows both the race for Nevada’s governor and U.S. senator to be almost dead even. The paper concluded undecided voters could play a major role come November.

The poll of 500 likely voters has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

This is how the race for governor stands:

This how the race for senator stands:

It looks like the campaign to defeat the Energy Choice Initiative, Question 3, is being effective. The measure passed with 72 percent of the vote two years ago:

Notice who has the highest unfavorable rating in the state:

Then there is the question of turnout by county. Those polled were:

The current active voters, according the Secretary of State, breaks down as Clark 69.3 percent, Washoe 17.7 percent and others 13 percent. But in the last mid-term election in 2014, the actual turnout was Clark 61.8 percent, Washoe 21.1 and others 17.1 percent. So, if the rural turnout is greater than the turnout in heavily Democratic urban centers that might make a difference. But as June the number of active voters in the rurals had dropped to 13 percent, down from 15 percent in 2014.

 

Newspaper column: BLM rule change doesn’t signal wild horse slaughter

Wild horses being affected by drought. (AP pix)

Wild horse advocates are apoplectic over a change in rules for selling off wild horses recently announced by the Trump administration’s Bureau of Land Management, saying it could lead to the animals being sold for slaughter.

In 2013, after learning that Colorado rancher Tom Davis, a friend and neighbor of then-Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, had over a three-year period sold 1,800 wild horses he had purchased from the BLM for slaughter in Mexico, the BLM instituted a rule that no one could purchase more than four wild horses in a six-month period without approval of the agency’s deputy assistant director of resource and planning.

In May, the BLM issued new guidelines saying up to 25 wild horses could be sold without prior approval up the chain of command.

“The federal government is about to resume selling America’s cherished wild horses and burros by the truckload, sending potentially thousands of mustangs into the slaughter pipeline against the wishes of 80 percent of Americans,” fulminated Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) in a press release this past week. “This Administration appears hellbent on destroying America’s iconic wild horse and burro herds, and this is the latest step on that path to destruction.”

Pay no heed to the fact the BLM spends 60 percent of its annual budget for handling wild horses and burros on warehousing 46,000 of them in corrals and private pastures, while there are 83,000 wild horses and burros on a range that can adequately sustain no more than 27,000. Nor to the fact that earlier this year BLM officials desperate to rid themselves of the expense of feeding all those “wild” animals were contemplating offering $1,000 incentives to anyone willing to take some off their hands.

An Interior Department inspector general report in 2015 found that Davis over three years bought truckloads of 35 horses at a time for $10 each and sold them to others who took them to Mexico for slaughter. Davis made up to $3,000 profit per truckload. The case was referred to federal and local prosecutors who declined to prosecute, criminally or civilly.

Davis told inspectors that BLM officials had to know so many horses were going to slaughter.

Congress for years has effectively banned the slaughter of horses for meat in the U.S. by denying funding for health inspectors.

The new BLM guidelines for selling wild horses say untrained animals may be sold for as little as $25 apiece, while horses trained to halter or saddle must fetch $125. Purchasers also must provide adequate feed, care and a facility, such as a corral, barn or stall.

Applicants also must swear that the animals are not intended for “slaughter or bucking stock, or for processing into commercial products …”

Though the limiting of sales to only four horses at a time appears to have not been financially conducive to either buyers or taxpayers, and despite the lessons learned from the Davis probe, AWHC’s Roy forecasts doom and gloom will result from the change in rules.

“When you’re selling horses by the truckload for $25 apiece, it provides a big incentive for slaughter,” Roy was quoted in her press release. “Since riding a horse to his first day of work, Interior Secretary Zinke has galloped down a deadly path for America’s wild horse and burro herds – from asking Congress for permission to slaughter tens of thousands of these cherished animals to promoting the mass surgical sterilization of mustangs and burros on the range. Zinke is pushing the livestock industry agenda to rid our public lands of wild horses and trampling on the wishes of American citizens in the process.”

In a recent interview, Nevada’s senior U.S. Senator Dean Heller said he has spoken with Zinke and a middle ground on this matter is being sought.

“Zinke assured me he’s looking at this issue. They’re looking at a number of different avenues how they can cull these herds without, frankly, having to remove some of these horses from the range, but they do believe they can put together a sterilization program and something that in five to 10 years can reduce the size of these herds,” Heller said. “There is a discussion out there. These discussions are being had — looking for a reasonable, reasonable answers to this, and trying to come up with a program or a process that both sides can agree on.”

When it comes to the taxpayers being on the hook to try to preserve non-native species in perpetuity, all means should be stoically explored.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Senate should quickly confirm Kavanaugh

Trump nominates Kavanaugh to Supreme Court. (Reuters pix)

When it comes to Nevada politics, principles be damned, it is all about partisanship, no matter the topic.

President Trump’s nomination of federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court is still another case in point.

The Senate must now exercise its constitutional advise and consent role to confirm the nomination — by simple majority now, thanks to Nevada’s now retired Sen. Harry Reid, who nuked the filibuster for judicial appointments.

Nevada’s senior Republican Sen. Dean Heller promptly put out a statement saying, “Judge Kavanaugh has a record of adherence to the Constitution and has demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the law — not making it. I expect the U.S. Senate to conduct a fair, thorough confirmation process, and I look forward to meeting with the nominee.”

Nevada’s junior Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — unlike other Nevada Democratic politicians — did not leap to judgment but spelled out her concerns, “President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court will hold immense power over the most critical issues facing our nation, including a woman’s right to choose, protection for those with preexisting conditions, LGBTQ rights, money in politics, and workers’ rights. We need a Justice who respects the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, not someone who is beholden to special interest groups. I plan to meet with Judge Kavanaugh in the coming months and will review his qualifications thoroughly.”

Back when Kennedy announced his retirement, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Heller’s seat, promptly spelled out her agenda, “The future of the Supreme Court is in play, and the outcome will have a major impact for generations on issues that matter to Nevadans, like health care and women’s reproductive rights. Another Supreme Court justice backed by President Trump could jeopardize Roe v. Wade, undermine coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions, threaten workers’ rights, perpetuate the damage of big money in our political system, and so much more.”

Apparently Democrats see nothing contradictory about their stance that the Roe v. Wade court opinion, which federalized abortion rights, is inviolate and written in stone, while the court’s Citizens United opinion, which opened up those big money pockets to express political views, is something that should be whisked away by any means available.

In naming Kavanaugh as his nominee Trump stated, “In keeping with President Reagan’s legacy, I do not ask about a nominee’s personal opinions. What matters is not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person.”

As far as Kavanaugh himself, he stated on the evening of his nomination, “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”

The Constitution was not written on an Etch A Sketch. The Founders pored over its wording, attempting to balance powers so that individual freedoms and rights would remain paramount for centuries to come and not subject to popular whims.

As Cortez Masto so rightfully stated, “We need a Justice who respects the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, not someone who is beholden to special interest groups.” Like so many politicians we can name.

The Senate and our senators should quickly confirm the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh by applying principles instead of partisanship.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Bill to cap prescription costs would be counterproductive

It is redistribution.

Today Nevada Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, announced that she has introduced a bill called Capping Prescription Costs Act of 2018 that would cap out of pocket prescription drug expenses to $500 a month for families and $250 a month for individuals. The bill would affect all group health plans, including employer-sponsored plans, and individual market plans, including ObamaCare. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

(Shutterstock)

“I hear from constituents every week who are concerned about the rising cost of prescription drugs, leaving them wondering how they will afford their medications,” a Rosen press release quotes her as saying. “This legislation will help rein in prices for many Nevadans by capping out-of-pocket prescription drug copay costs for anyone on the exchange. I’m proud to introduce this bill in the House that will help us hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable and bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Nevada’s hardworking families.”

Except, if it works like every other Democratic proposal on this topic, it will do nothing to hold drug or insurance companies accountable, but saddle taxpayers with the cost.

In fact, Dan Gorenstein, writing at marketplace.org, says such plans take the pressure off pharmaceutical firms to cut prices.

A cap would limit what the seriously ill pay, but taxpayers would pick up the difference, Gorenstein writes, quoting Vanderbilt professor Stacie Dusetzina as saying capping out-of-pocket costs for patients can backfire, because those stories of patients who are forced to pay exorbitant drug prices to stay alive are politically powerful.

“When you think about those stories that puts the drug pricing issue in the face of policymakers, if you cap out-of-pocket spending many of those stories disappear,” Dusetzina is quoted as saying, adding that the better route is make insurers pay more so they will negotiate more toughly with drug companies.

Bills like Rosen’s just shift the cost to the taxpayers and actually provide a disincentive to bringing down costs of prescriptions.

 

 

Newspaper column: Free speech issues ‘on the ballot’ in Nevada

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political views might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flower arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in the closing days of this year’s court calendar.

This past week, the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree.

“The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the 5-4 opinion. “We have held time and again that freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.’”

Public employee unions that advocate higher wages that require higher taxes are intrinsically political.

Just the day before the court ruled, again 5-4, that a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services was an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.

“Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion. “One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”

A little more than a week earlier in a 7-2 ruling the court held Colorado could not force cake shop owner to make a special cake for a gay wedding.

Shortly thereafter. the court remanded a Washington case involving a florist who declined to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, citing the Colorado ruling.

The state of Nevada, under the direction of Attorney General Adam Laxalt, had joined in both the public employee union case and the California abortion law case on the winning side.

Laxalt’s office put out a press release about the California law ruling stating: “The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government’s preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government’s preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.”

Republican Laxalt’s Democratic opponent for governor in November, Steve Sisolak, put out a statement reported by The Nevada Independent saying, “I believe that women deserve access to all of their options when it comes to their reproductive health care. I still have concerns over the lack of information given by these crisis pregnancy centers and the harm it can cause.”

Sisolak continued, “As governor, I will fight to protect a woman’s constitutional reproductive rights and her consistent access to comprehensive care. Adam Laxalt has shown repeatedly that he will pursue an anti-choice agenda that will roll back the clock on women’s rights and bring Nevada down a dangerous path.”

This has nothing to do with abortion rights and only to do with speech rights.

This point was lost on Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen who is running for Republican Dean Heller’s Senate seat. She sent out an email saying, “Deceiving women about their health care options is an attack on women’s fundamental reproductive freedom, and I will continue to stand against this Administration’s attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. Nevadans support a woman’s right to make these personal decisions.”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Supreme Court hears free speech case