Friday, November 30, 2012

The Washington Post today via Ezra Klein has an interesting analysis of why Pres. Obama simply put the budget and plan on the table he introduced last summer as his opening salvo on the fiscal cliff negotiations.  "He is done negotiating with himself"...i.e. No longer will he be the one offering to compromise first, to propose large cuts in return for small tax increases.

Per Klein, what Obama has just done is to put the monkey on the GOP's back to come up with what and how they would do with entitlements and creating revenue.

My take:  It is part of the negotiating  game. The GOP is whining. It is time they  get serious themselves and stop acting like they won the last election. Sure they control the House, but that is not an indication of public will; it is an indication of the effectiveness of gerrymandering.  Thanks to redistricting post census, they are protected by district lines drawn to give them safe districts.  Polls show that if the fiscal cliff is not avoided, the GOP House will get the blame and in time, even their safe districts will no longer be safe. Public will was clearly stated in November per votes and exit polls: raise taxes on the rich and do not substitute current entitlements with vouchers.

We, our economy, have suffered enough.  Let's get on with it, Washington.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why November went blue: Many saw life as it has become; not as it was 20 years ago.

The other day I received an email from a follower of my blog. He is 47 years old, a consulting engineer. He wrote the following:

“As a current business owner for 17 years, the last four years have been extremely difficult. Our health insurance costs have gone up over 100 percent and we are healthy people. All other costs have increased drastically and business has decreased substantially.

“I don't mind helping people in need as all people need help in some point in their life. However, where do you draw the line? It seems that when we were young, if you got laid off from a job you went out and got another job. That doesn't happen today. People will milk the system until they are forced to get a job?

What do I not understand about your views? Please enlighten me.”

Here is the gist of my answer (edited for the column):

It appears you have a disconnect with what is going on in the lives of so many unlike you or you would not ask that question.

When we were young there were other jobs to be had. The past 10 years and the Great Recession changed much. Lay-offs, downsizing and long delays in finding another job have left gaps in income and unforeseen financial struggles. Medical care has become much more high tech and expensive. The major cause of bankruptcy is medical bills and most of those going bankrupt had health insurance, but inadequate insurance that did not cover co-pays and time away from work.

Life has changed since you started your business. The middle class' income has fallen (per a PEW Research study). College is no longer $10,000 a year ... $20,000 to $40,000 is not an unusual cost for an undergrad degree and advanced degrees are astronomical.

Examples of a family I have been following closely: two 40 year old-plus adults have pre-existing conditions, one a cancer survivor, and unless they worked for an employer who provided insurance, they could not afford health insurance now. Two have master's degrees; the other has a skill in demand and a college degree, too. One is going insurance naked because he is self-employed and he cannot afford the premiums. (Fact checkers agree: Increased insurance costs are not due to Obamacare and 97 percent of small business will not have to provide insurance).

For their children, loans are the only option for college. However, before Obama readjusted the pay back schedule, they were faced with huge debts they could not afford to pay back for years. Two 40-somethings have been in and out of a job since the Bush crash. Fortunately at least one at a time had employer-provided insurance. None of them has been on unemployment; none has resorted to food stamps or welfare. All hated to be unemployed, but all have been able to hold onto even their diminished status by hard work and running up credit cards. Now all are employed, though one underemployed still waits until 2014 when Obamacare kicks in.

However, they see hope in Obamacare so they can always afford health insurance regardless of their employment status. They already are experiencing help in sending their kids to college; and an improving economic situation. None is “milking the system until they are forced to get a job.” Even those on welfare are there temporarily; welfare reform is still in effect.. Those able to work are still required to find a job. (Even at the depth of the recession, average time on food stamps and unemployment was nine months, per government figures).

It is time to see life as it has become; not as it was. Others did and that is a major reason why November went blue.

For more, visit;
Published in the Sky Hi Daily News today. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Olahoma, leader in rejecting Obamacare, will not get off the hook.

Oklahoma is an ornery cuss. I do not mean just their legendary football teams. I mean their attitudes: non-cooperative with whatever is going on in Washington. I believe I can pick on them with some authority, having been born and raised in that iconic Okie town … Muskogee.

Oklahoma has a history of thumbing its nose at anything federal. It is not a sentiment that is exclusive to their state; they take it to the extreme. One of the last states to remain dry, I recall that the boot-leggers' stills of the night were held in esteem and federal “revenuers” were the enemy. Anti-federal sentiment is just part of their DNA.

That is why I was also not surprised to read in the New York Times on July 29 that Oklahoma planned to thumb its nose at the mandate to require all states to participate in Obamacare. It did so by turning down a $54 million dollar grant to administer the program. Oklahoma was also the first state taking advantage of the ability provided by the Supreme Court decision to opt out of federally paid extension of Medicaid. The Times held Oklahoma up as the pioneer of the rejectionist position. Since then some other states, mostly those with Republican governors, followed Oklahoma's lead.

There is a provision in Obamacare that does not let such states off the hook. If they do not set up their own systems statewide per federal guidelines, the feds can step in and do it for them. Some states hoped the Supreme Court would overturn Obamacare. That did not happen. Then many states besides Oklahoma also gambled the GOP would win in November so that Obamacare would be repealed. They lost that bet. Elections do have consequences, and keeping Obamacare is a big one.

States with Republican-dominated governments are faced with a dilemma: Either let the federal government take over their health care system or partner with them. It is a particularly uncomfortable position for GOP governors in swing states that voted Democratic.

Wisconsin this week opted to let the feds take over; Ohio will take the partner route; Florida is mulling over the partnering. States have until Dec. 14 to announce their intentions, but not providing Obamacare to their citizens is no longer an option.

Fortunately, 15 state legislatures, such as Colorado's, had the foresight to set up their own state-based structure to administer Obamacare, to determine the private sector participants, and to keep health care control local and tailor made for specific state needs. Beginning October 2013, currently uninsured Colorado citizens will have the ability to choose among a large number of private insurance plans that meet certain standards and to be charged according to their income level. Actual coverage begins January 2014.

A colleague of mine from Texas loudly proclaimed at a social gathering post-election that Obamacare would bring down our economy and destroy jobs. She must not have gotten the message: The Congressional Budget Office on July 25 scored repealing Obamacare as adding more to the federal deficit than keeping it would. The Simpson Bowles Commission concluded that Obamacare was a contributor to reducing the deficit because Obamacare provides some very important cost savings that impact federal Medicare and Medicaid costs. A major reason is that continuing to dump uninsured into emergency rooms is a very expensive way to provide health care.

The GOP's “Obamascare” tactics of wrongly implying the savings to the Medicare system would reduce benefits or their touting vouchers to save Medicare had less of an effect than Republicans had hoped.

Those who already have insurance can also be thankful to Obamacare this Thanksgiving that their 18-25 year olds can remain on parents' insurance and pre-existing conditions will no longer be an excuse to deny coverage.
(This also appeared in all editions of today)


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Advice to grownups from an 18 year old first time voter

Election night was a family affair. Our 18-year-old grandson, first time voter, joined my husband and me to watch the returns.

Politics was not a subject that had been on the tip of his age group's tongue. However, the last 24 hours before the polls closed, the usual social media chatter from fellow 18-year-olds changed to politics. During election night media's coverage of returns, tweets and emails were flowing. Some were caustic and humorous.

One from Kyle Larson, a college freshman from Centennial, was so insightful our grandson shared it with us. With Larson's permission, I am relaying what came out of the mouth of this first-time voter.

“Alright, now that we have our president, our senate, our house, we can finally settle down, and sure, maybe some of us may mourn for a week or two at Mitt Romney's loss, but here's a couple things we have to learn.

“1. The country will not die. The president does not have the power to ruin a country. That takes the president, the house, the senate, and the Supreme Court to completely ruin a country. So everyone is saying ‘Let's move to country xyz.' You don't need to. Everyone in America will still live. Obama's not going to kill Americans.

“2. We are America, not the Land of Republicans, not the Land of Democrats, but the land of America! We are a United States, and as such, we have to be able to set aside our differences, and work together to solve our problems. Sure, not every problem is going to be solved the ideal way you wanted, and sure, maybe you don't agree with everything the president agrees with, but America's voice will be heard. We are a democracy. So if you lost, I'm sorry. But your voice still matters, and let it be heard!

“And so, the election is over, and we must stand together as Americans, roll up our sleeves, and get some work done….” 

We are beginning to realize that “not every problem is going to be solved the ideal way you wanted.” There is going to have to be some give and some take because the consequences of the so-called fiscal cliff will be dire. In the budget debates this summer, compromise was a no-no. Temporary agreement was reached only by setting up a “sequester,” an automatic trigger that would go into effect that would be so horrific to priorities of both sides of the aisle, a compromise would be forced. The Pentagon budget would be slashed, taxes would automatically rise on everyone, and social programs would be reduced to rubble. Most economists predict that the “sequester” was so austere, the country would lapse into recession and unemployment would soar.

The thought was that after the November elections, compromise would be easier and voters would have expressed the direction the country preferred.

Post-election, we still have a nearly equally divided country. President Obama won the popular vote by only 2.5 percent. Congress has a Democratic-controlled Senate and a GOP-dominated House.

The Associated Press exit polls confirmed on most issues there was a spread of a couple of percentage points. One was different. About 60 percent wanted “high-income earners to pay more in taxes in order to reduce the deficit.” Whether it is done by removing deductions, tax-rate increases, or program budget cutting, real compromise should contain a combination of all so long as the math works to cut the deficit.

We have kicked the tough-decision can down the road long enough, and it is time those in Washington “roll up their sleeves.” Delay and political demagogy should not be tolerated. Enough, already. Grown-ups … it is time to heed the words of 18-year-old Kyle Larson. 

Also published in the Sky Hi Daily News all editions today 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

21 Reasons for Obama's Victory and Romney's Defeat

21 Reasons for Obama's Victory and Romney's Defeat
Highly recommended reading.  It says it all.

The Fraser River runs through us

While politics can divide Grand County, there is an issue that should unite us. It flows through us and it is important to us all, whether we simply enjoy it, use it for recreation, or depend on it for tourist and fishing businesses or ranching. It is the Fraser River and its tributaries and Denver Water's Moffat Firming Project plan to divert 80 percent of its natural flow to the Eastern Slope.

Push is coming to shove soon on critical approvals of the project. Some local decision-makers signed off on it with the impression that the environmental problems have been resolved. A large number of landowners who think otherwise are petitioning the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to deny the diversion plans until better measures are taken to minimize the damage.

I have lived both part time and full time for the past 43 years on a bluff above that Fraser River. When our children were young, I remember on a still summers' night hearing the water 250 feet below us rush through its native channel. The clear, cold water ran deeply enough to allow our youngsters to splash in it on a hot summer day. Our youngest daughter, nearly 9, pulled a 14-inch rainbow out of the water herself (with the help of a nearby fisherman and his net). It was her first big one and she caught it with salmon eggs on a dime store rod and reel.

Later, the Fraser River Trail gave us a place to walk our dogs, but also brought us face to face with algae and a diminished river barely worthy of being called a creek. Denver Water has already taken 60 percent from it and they now want to divert another 20 percent.

Even in its diminished flow, the beavers, chased out by trappers in the '70's, have returned and we thrill to see the moose nibbling on the willows. Red wing blackbirds fly up to our feeder and perch on our deck's rails and deer tread silently down through a nearby gully to water. It is for our family more than a stream; it is part of our lives.

For others in this valley, it brings business; fly shops and ambiance for condos, cabins and year-round homes near its banks. It is where cattle drink and irrigated hay grows, where golfers tap balls and dig divots on the greens along, it and where tourists view the wildlife it attracts.

An agreement has been signed by some county officials who think it is the best deal they can get with Denver Water to provide mitigation of the impacts that such a drastic draining would bring to the willows, wetlands, and fishing. Scientific measurements show that the river is so shallow in the heat of summer, the temperature rises and the fish die. Denver Water is proposing to provide 250 acre-feet of water in August only to flush out mud and to lower the temperature. However, there are others who see this as inadequate. Temperatures are rising in June, July ,and September as well, and the volume released will not be enough to flush out the mud. Those who object to the plan that is being proposed believe that the environmental impact statements submitted are so inadequate, there is no way to assess the long term harm.

A group of land owners is writing a letter to the Army Corps and the EPA asking them to restrict diversion when stream temperatures approach state standards, to provide adequate flushing flows, and ongoing monitoring with provisions to allow for future adjustments and more mitigation measures if the conditions deteriorate. For those who would like to know more, contact I will be writing a similar letter, too.

For comments on Tuesday's election,  see below.  

Initial comments on Tuesday's election; warning the GOP not to fool themselves

While waiting for the breakdown of who voted for whom yesterday, there are some broad, initial observations:
It was an election of demographics and get out the vote techniques.   Verification of some early pundit analyses and exit polls will await pollsters and political scientists combing through election night results. Nonetheless, here are some probable factors that led to Obama’s victory that leap out at us the morning after.
Per exit polls, the Latino vote that once went 40% to Republicans went over 70% to Democrats and their absolute numbers increased.  It was particularly evident in Florida where the non-Cuban vote turned out in strength, and the Latino turnout played a role in turning Virginia and Nevada blue.   The Colorado Latino vote is as yet not analyzed, but was a likely a factor in Colorado’s keeping its trend of the past couple of years of turning from red and purple to blue.
  It was not so much that Obama won the Latino vote as the GOP lost it.  True, Latinos were disappointed that the President had not put immigration reform on his priority list. Obama did  partially offset the disappointment  by administrative edicts putting into effect  the Dream Act and on resetting the deportation  policy to give priority to deporting   criminals, giving  the law abiding, undocumented  some breathing room.
 However, Republicans in the primary and in state legislatures like Colorado had shown hostility toward those not liked them, especially opposing a path to citizenship for Latinos with venom calling it “amnesty”.   Hispanics took it as inferring all illegals were criminals. Romney promoted supporting policies that were so anti-immigrant that they would “self deport” to their native homes. The GOP opposition to the Dream Act was viewed by Hispanics as heartless. Arizona type “show me your documents” laws added to Latino’s support of Democrats. Romney  embraced the Arizona law, stumbled over his hiring undocumented contractors,  and was unable effectively to shed  the impression he was anti Latino by contending near the end of the campaign that  he only supported the e-verify portion part of the Arizona law, but not the rest.
 Even if Republicans compromise on the “amnesty” position in immigration reform in the next four years, the bitter taste may linger through future election cycles.  History may repeat itself…It possibly may be like Democrats’ support of civil rights legislation that turned post-civil war Republican African Americans into dedicated Democrats.  It is possible  2012’s  Republican’s legacy will be a loss of Latino votes for some time in  the future as the Latino population continues to increase their percentage of registered voters.
The voter suppression efforts of Republican Secretaries of State backfired, especially among the African American population who viewed that action as a continuation of their civil rights’ struggle they should overcome. Cutting down early voting hours, especially on Sundays, made it harder for the poor and older African Americans to vote and it resulted in long lines in the few voting sites. The proof of citizenship based on a government issued ID was a direct challenge to Hispanic voters, an insulting inference that if a person looked “Mexican”, that person was probably unqualified to vote.  The suppression efforts became a rallying cry for minorities to turn out to vote.  They had marched before to secure their rights and now they stood in lines for hours.
The gender gap played the most obvious role   in the election of several women to the Senate, defeating their Republican opponents who had taken extreme positions on women’s health. If the GOP does not take that evidence seriously and if they continue to claim that the women’s vote was only motivated by the economy, they are fooling themselves in most instances. There is an exception.  Elizabeth Warren’s victory in Massachusetts was owed not so much to the gap, but to a Senate seat returning to its Democratic roots and her populist, popular pro consumer positions on issues, especially Wall Street Reform.  However, Massachusetts has been known to be hostile to female candidates in the past so that Warren’s victory could be seen as an increased acceptance of women politicians in that state.
The Ohio voter results ran contrary to the gender gap argument, too, as Obama increased his margins in the auto manufacturing centers, per Chuck Todd on MSNBC this AM.  White working class men in the Midwest voted for Obama at a higher rate than that same demographic in the rest of the country. This was the fallout from Romney’s unfortunate letter a couple of years ago to the New York Times and doubling down on his position in 2012…to let the auto industry go bankrupt.  He could never shake it. The nail in the coffin appeared to be his Hail Mary attempt to claim that Jeep jobs were going to China, when it was called a lie by everyone more informed, even auto manufacturing executives, and then continuing to run the ad even after that. It exposed him as willing to promote a known lie if it served his purpose. It was a comment on his character, a verification of what many had suspected or charged him with earlier, his willingness to stretch the truth or to say whatever was necessary to get elected.
Youth?  Comments heard on TV this morning indicate that in Colorado the young voters turned out for Obama even at a higher rate than in 2008 so that the apathy that conservative pundits had touted was their wishful thinking.  No doubt the winning ballot issue in Colorado, legalization of pot, motivated more youth than usual to go to the polls. 
Fox pundits who contend that Romney lost the race solely because Superstorm Sandy stopped his momentum are also fooling themselves. It may have been a factor, but it was not the determining or the only one. Obama was in peril; he could have fumbled the response to the storm and he did not.  New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie’s heartfelt expressions of gratitude and praise of Obama accomplished one thing if indeed Sandy was a factor: it showed Obama and a Romney supporter could come together and put politics aside…a wish shared by so many of us.  It also gave an opportunity for Obama to correct the impression the GOP tried to spread that Obama was a weak leader so  it repaired some of  the damage Obama did to himself in that first debate. However, for those in the Midwest and in the West, Sandy did not have the impact as much as did demographics and policies that were preferred by the middle class.   Many had voted before Sandy happened and the polls showed basic consistency on the issues and attitudes that persisted through Tuesday. 
Going forward is a topic that deserves some serious attention, and a future column will be devoted to the subject.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CNN International in Granby, Colorado (and a bit with Felicia)

From the producer of the CNN Richard Quest feature on the US elections, the segment is running on CNN international now.