Congress incentivizes not going back to work

Well, one aspect of the $2.2 trillion congressional coronavirus stimulus package sure seems counterproductive, if the goal is to get the country back to work.

For those who lost their jobs due to the government imposed shutdown of “nonessential” businesses, the bill provides an extra $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits for four months. For many lower income workers that will mean they will receive more income for staying home than they were getting while working.

So, for the next four months what idiot would deprive his family of extra income and spend time away from family at an often back-breaking job?

This just prolongs the problems.

Also, pay no heed to the what this round of ongoing stimulus spending does to the deficit. Trump’s entire FY 2021 budget, the highest ever, is $4.8 trillion. This will not end well, if it ever ends.

 

Newspaper column: Could a socialist be the Democratic presidential nominee?

To their eternal ignominy Nevada Democratic caucus voters have helped jump start the presidential candidacy of self-identified democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders, a man who could not have voted for himself if he lived here because he is not a registered Democrat.

The Vermont independent senator won 47 percent of the state’s equivalent delegates, picking up strong pluralities in 10 counties, a 78 percent majority in Eureka and a 58 percent majority in Esmeralda. Tom Steyer won Mineral, while Pete Buttigieg took Douglas, Lincoln, Nye and Pershing. Steyer and Buttigieg both dropped out after poor showings in South Carolina this past weekend.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who won handily in South Carolina, finished second in Nevada overall.

With Super Tuesday this week there were 1,344 delegates at stake in 14 states — 415 in California alone — on the way to the 1,991 needed to win the Democratic nomination outright. Biden now leads Sanders by 75 delegates.

Sanders on the stump has been making a whole host of mostly socialistic promises — Medicare for All, free college, Green New Deal, open borders, workplace democracy, housing for all, expanded Social Security, free child care and pre-kindergarten, justice and safety for all, teacher raises, forgiving medical debt, fair banking, jobs for all, women’s rights, racial justice, gun safety, rights for the disabled, rights for all forms of gender identity, revitalizing rural areas, getting corporate money out of politics, corporate accountability, legal pot, fair trade.

In a recent op-ed in the Las Vegas newspaper Sanders even promised: “Together, we will make sure that no child in Nevada goes hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Nevada school children are in need of school lunches. Instead of saddling families with debt and stigma, we will fund universal school meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

In Bernie’s brave new world, as in Aldous Huxley’s, “parent” is a dirty word. The state will take care of everything and everyone will be just a cog in the socialist machine.

To pay for it all, he’ll just tax the rich, like in that old rock tune “I’d Love to Change the World” by Ten Years After: “Tax the rich, feed the poor/ ‘Til there are no rich no more.” What will he do when he runs out of rich people?

Sanders is reportedly especially embraced by so-called millennials who apparently have no concept of the price of socialism as recorded repeatedly in history — the re-education camps, the gulags, the purges, the lack of free speech or press, the lack of private property — such as the millennials’ beloved cellphones.

According to a recent Heritage Foundation article, a YouGov survey reported that 44 percent of young people between the ages of 16 and 29 would prefer to live in a socialist nation rather than a capitalist country.

“Another seven percent would choose communism. However, the same poll revealed that only 33 percent of the respondents could correctly define socialism as based on the common ownership of economic and social systems as well as the state control of the means of production,” the article states. “What most millennials mean by ‘socialism’ seems to be a mix of our welfare state and what they perceive to be Swedish democratic socialism. But Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries including Denmark favor the free market and are content with private rather than government ownership of their major industries. However, Danish domestic spending including comprehensive health care has a high price — a top personal income tax of 57 percent.”

Sanders himself has taken recently to apologizing for the excesses of socialist regimes by trying to point to some positives.

“We’re very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba but you know, it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad. You know?” Sanders said on CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a recent interview. “When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing? Even though Fidel Castro did it?”

They might be able to read, but just ask the throngs of Cuban expatriates in Florida what they were allowed to read.

How many Sanders supporters have any inkling of the carnage due to socialism? According to “The Black Book of Communism,” published by Harvard University Press, the total deaths due to socialist dictators from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot to Castro and others is 100 million. Still want socialism?

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.

 

Newspaper column: Democratic candidates could hurt rural health care

As Democratic presidential candidates sweep across the state in advance of Saturday’s caucus rural voters should pay close attention — as if your life depends on it, because it does — to what they say about their plans for changing how Americans pay for health care.

Two of them — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — are advocating what has been dubbed “Medicare for All,” which would basically outlaw private health insurance, such as that offered by employers and unions, and replace it with a taxpayer-funded single payer plan.

The rest have called for creation of a public option that would compete with private insurers and saddle taxpayers with the cost.

One problem is that Medicare reimbursements are estimated to be on average 40 percent less than private insurance. According to a New York Times article from a year ago, Medicare typically pays a hospital $17,000 for a knee replacement, while the same hospital would get about $37,000 for the same surgery on a patient with private insurance. Also, a hospital could get about $4,200 from Medicare for removing a gallbladder, but $7,400 from a private insurer.

This has been exacerbated by Medicare’s method of reimbursement, which is based on wage indexing.

In November the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote that, for example, prior to some adjustments this fiscal year, a hospital in a low-wage rural community could receive a Medicare payment of about $4,000 for treating pneumonia, while a hospital in a high-wage urban area could receive a Medicare payment of nearly $6,000 for the same case.

Because of such payments schedules and other factors, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, 166 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, including in 2015 the Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah. That closure left residents 100 miles from the nearest hospital and 200 miles from the nearest level one trauma center, though some local clinics now provide some urgent care. Four rural hospitals have closed so far this year.

The Medicare administrator noted that nearly 60 million rural Americans — often living in areas with higher rates of poverty and having difficulty traveling long distances to a hospital or doctor’s office — face higher risks. Recent Centers for Disease Control data found 57 percent of deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease in rural areas were preventable, compared with only 13 percent preventable deaths for people with the same condition in urban areas.

A study this past August for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future conducted by Navigant Consulting looked at what the impact on rural health care might be at different levels of federal takeover of health care reimbursements.

Under the least intrusive option in which everyone covered by an employer-based insurance program kept that plan while others were swept into the public option, the study estimated that 28 percent of rural hospitals would be at high risk of closure, including three in Nevada.

Under the Medicare for All option, the study estimated that 55 percent of rural hospitals or more than 1,000 could be at high risk for closure, including eight in Nevada.

Even Sen. Warren has recognized that the plan she and Sanders have been backing could have an adverse impact on rural hospitals. A posting on her campaign website says, “Medicare for All will mean access to primary care and lower health costs for patients — and less uncompensated care for rural hospitals, helping them stay afloat. Elizabeth will create a new Medicare designation for rural hospitals that reimburses them at a higher rate and offers flexibility of services to meet the needs of their communities. Elizabeth will also strengthen antitrust protections to fight hospital mergers that increase costs, lower quality, and close rural facilities.”

How it will be paid for is not mentioned.

For his part Sanders blithely states online, “Rural people in particular have suffered the negative consequences that result from a lack of access to affordable, quality health care. Access to health care is a top issue for farmers and have some of the highest uninsured rate, in fact 41% of dairy farmers lack health insurance. With Medicare-for-All, small business owners, including farmers, will no longer have to worry about providing health care to their families or employees.”

Who will worry about paying for it?

According to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada already ranks 45th in the nation for active physicians per 100,000 population, 48th for primary care physicians and 50th for general surgeons.

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.

Ramirez cartoon

A poll of not-so-likely voters

The banner story in today’s newspaper reports that nonpartisan voters prefer the top Democratic presidential contenders over Donald Trump.

“The results of the poll, which surveyed 402 likely nonpartisan voters from Feb. 2-4, found that former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren each have slight leads over Trump in hypothetical, head-to-head November matchups,”  the story says, noting that nonpartisans make up only about 22 percent of active registered voters.

Just how likely are they to vote? Well, not so likely after all.

The third paragraph from the end notes, “A staggering 40 percent of the respondents had not voted in any of the past four elections.”

What’s the margin of error?

Editorial: In whom should we trust our future?

A couple of weeks ago at the 50th World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 17-year-old Swedish environmental scold Greta Thunberg for the second year in a row ranted about eminent climate catastrophe and urged the attendees to do something to prevent it immediately if not yesterday.

“In the days running up to the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum, I joined a group of climate activists demanding that you, the world’s most powerful and influential business and political leaders, begin to take the action needed,” Thunberg said.

She continued, “We demand at this year’s World Economic Forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments: Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies. And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021. We want this done now.”

She ended with her customary inflammatory exhortation, “Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour. And we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else.”

Fortunately, a couple of hours later an adult addressed the forum attendees with a different message.

President Donald Trump, 73, opened with a statistical litany, exclaiming, “Today, I’m proud to declare that the United States is in the midst of an economic boom the likes of which the world has never seen before. We’ve regained our stride, we discovered our spirit and reawakened the powerful machinery of American enterprise. America is thriving, America is flourishing, and yes, America is winning again like never before.”

Since his election Trump recounted that America has gained 7 million jobs, unemployment is the lowest in more than 50 years and earnings growth for the bottom 10 percent is outpacing the top 10 percent. He said the American energy revolution is saving American families $2,500 a year.

“At the same time, I’m proud to report the United States has among the cleanest air and drinking water on Earth — and we’re going to keep it that way,” Trump continued. “And we just came out with a report that, at this moment, it’s the cleanest it’s been in the last 40 years. We’re committed to conserving the majesty of God’s creation and the natural beauty of our world.”

As if in answer to a previous speaker, Trump went on to say, “This is not a time for pessimism; this is a time for optimism. Fear and doubt is not a good thought process because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism and action. But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse. They are the heirs of yesterday’s foolish fortune-tellers — and I have them and you have them, and we all have them, and they want to see us do badly, but we don’t let that happen. They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the ’70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s. These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives.”

He declared that we will not allow radical socialists to wreck our economy and liberties — a transparent shot at the advocates of the Democrats’ Green New Deal, which relies on massive government control of all aspects of our lives and livelihoods.

“We continue to embrace technology, not to shun it,” the president declared. “When people are free to innovate, millions will live longer, happier, healthier lives.”

Now, who should we be listening to and heeding? A doomsaying child? Or a man who has managed through cutting taxes and regulations to work an economic turnaround while still keeping the environment clean and healthy?

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.

Branco cartoon

Newspaper column: Is the Equal Rights Amendment really worth implementing?

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has joined the attorneys general of Virginia and Illinois in filing a lawsuit seeking to force the recognition of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ERA would dictate that no rights could be denied or abridged “on account of sex.” A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate and ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38. In January Virginia become the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Illinois was the 37th in 2018 and Nevada the 36th in 2017.

The problem is that Congress set a 1982 deadline for ratification. Further, five states have since rescinded their ratifications.

The lawsuit argues that Article 5 of the Constitution, spelling out the amendment process, does not permit either a deadline or rescinding of ratification.

The suit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to declare the amendment valid and order U.S. Archivist David Ferriero to certify the ERA as such.

Ferriero has refused to certify the amendment since receiving a Justice Department opinion stating Congress has the right to impose a deadline, citing a 1921 case in which the Supreme Court found that Congress was within its authority to impose a seven-year deadline for passage of the 18th Amendment, which established Prohibition.

Nonetheless, the 18-page suit contends Article 5 does not allow imposing such deadlines on the states, nor does it allow rescinding ratification.

During a conference call this past week announcing the filing of the lawsuit, Attorney General Ford declared, “Let me begin by saying something that I firmly believe and I have always believed, and that’s that women have always been endowed with equal rights, even though our country has wrongly failed to recognize them. These rights are entitled to the rightful place in the Constitution, and I am committed to ensuring that they are permanently written to our nation’s history in its features. Advancing civil rights is one of my administration’s main areas of focus. It is a focus I have communicated to all the members of my office the second day on my job. Today I’m proud to file this lawsuit on behalf of women in Nevada, women all over the country. The gravity of this moment should not be underplayed.”

Ford quoted the key portion of the amendment, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

He pointed out that the original text of the Constitution did not even refer to women, and the only known use of the pronoun “she” in the Framers’ deliberations appeared in an ultimately rejected clause referring to fugitive slaves.

The ERA was first proposed in 1923, Ford recalled, and was backed by feminists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including his mother Denise Claiborne, who saw ratification as the only clearcut way to eliminate all legal gender-based discrimination in the United States.

“Opponents of the time viewed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment as a move that would unravel what they called the traditional American society,” Ford continued. “It would unravel what they called protective laws like related to sexual assault and to alimony. … The tendency for a mother to receive child custody in a divorce case would be eliminated. The all-male military draft would be rendered unconstitutional. And those opposed to the ERA even suggested that single-sex restrooms could be outlawed by future courts.”

Frankly, in addition to the questions about whether the ERA should be recognized, those concerns Ford cited are far more real and possible today than when the ERA passed Congress in 1972.

In an era in which males who “identify” as females are granted access to women’s restrooms, locker rooms and allowed to compete in women’s athletics is it too far fetched to envision the courts interpreting the ERA as requiring gender neutral policies that sacrifice privacy and safety?

Might women have to register for the draft? Might the ERA eviscerate Title IX, which has increased opportunities for female athletes? What would become of the Violence Against Women Act and the Women, Infants and Children welfare program? What about accommodations in the workplace for pregnant women?

The ERA could also end any reasonable restrictions on abortions.

If courts side with these attorneys general, Congress and the states might soon have to consider an amendment repealing the ERA.

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.

Getty Images file photo

Editorial: WOTUS rule change restores federalism

The usual suspects in the self-styled environmental groups predictably collapsed into palpitating conniptions this past week when the Trump administration announced its final rule rolling back the Obama-era rule that overreachingly defined the waters of the United States (WOTUS) covered by the Clean Water Act of 1972 as every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy hoof print that might ever eventually spill a few drops of water into any rivulet.

Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, wailed, “This sickening gift to polluters will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution. People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies. We’ll absolutely be fighting it in court.”

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic candidate for president, fired off a Twitter rant, “Government works great for giant corporations that want to dump chemicals & toxic waste into streams & wetlands. It’s just not working for families that want to be able to drink water without being poisoned. This is corruption, plain and simple.”

But Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, while announcing the rule change at a conference of the National Association of Home Builders in Las Vegas, pointed out, “All states have their own protections for waters within their borders, and many regulate more broadly than the federal government. … Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes the proper balance between Washington, D.C., and the states. And it clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act and, importantly, which waters falls solely under the states’ jurisdiction.”

The new rule — prepared by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers — is to take effect in 60 days, though litigation challenging it is a certainty.

The Obama administration’s 2015 definition of WOTUS covered about half of the nation’s wetlands and many streams that flowed only after heavy rainfall and required farmers and developers to seek expensive and time-consuming permits before turning so much as a shovel of dirt.

The Clean Water Act made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant that could eventually reach navigable waters unless a permit was first obtained. The 2015 WOTUS definition, for example, barred a Minnesota company from mining peat on a wetland 120 miles from the Red River.

Nevada and a dozen other states in 2015 obtained an injunction from a federal judge blocking enforcement of the sweeping WOTUS rule. Then-Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said of the injunction, “This important order, at a minimum, delays implementation of an unwise, unjustifiable and burdensome rule, and protects Nevada’s landowners, farmers and developers from job losses and increased energy prices, until the final rule can be comprehensively fought in court.” The EPA decided the injunction applied only to those 13 states.

The rule change has been in the works since shortly after President Trump took office.

In a speech to the American Farm Bureau two weeks ago Trump talked about the rule change, saying, “And, today, I’m proud to announce that I am taking yet another step to protect the water rights of American farmers and ranchers. Under the previous administration, the Army Corps of Engineers proposed a new Water Supply rule that would give the federal government vast and unlimited power to restrict farmers’ access to water. That’s not a good thing. Is anybody happy with being restricted to water if you have a farm? Please stand up if you are happy about that. Because this authority rightfully belongs to the states, not the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.”

The nation’s waters are not being turned over to corporations for dumping chemicals and toxins. The power to regulate and protect the water is simply being returned to the states, which under the principles of federalism, is where they rightfully belong.

In fact, Trump’s executive order of February 2017 that started the rule change process is titled: “Presidential Executive Order on Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.”

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.