Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dirigo funding plan widely misreported

Much media attention has surrounded legislation funding Dirigo Health and health-care market reforms. Sadly, four articles published in different papers by different reporters trumpeted lobbyist assertions regarding the beer, wine, and soda taxes to fund Dirigo without appropriate fact-checking.Source

This Op Ed piece was published in the Portland Press Herald Wednesday past, the 14th. I am sure that the two authors, Rep. Sean Faircloth D-Bangor and Sen. Phil Bartlett D-Cumberland, are completely in earnest in their assertion that the media has distorted the facts surrounding the new Tax law. I am also betting that these two fine Gentlemen, are fully convinced that the law is for the greater good and that which these new taxes will fund, Dirigo, is a noble and needed enterprise.

To be a fair man I'll not take them to task on those particular issues as, opinions and beliefs vary, as does the conviction by which one defends said beliefs. No, I wish to address the contradictory and faulty arguments they put forth in defense of not only the tax, but also of their anger over the media's coverage. Allow me to address the latter first.

The primary contention of the article is that the media failed to research the new law to fund Dirigo sufficiently prior to going to press on several articles. The authors assert that the media relied upon the Lobbyists for the Beer and Wine industry as their main sources of information. I know not how they came to this conclusion but I daresay it is somewhat unfounded, for, as you may all know, I have been following this rather closely, and the Lobbyist of which the authors accuse of misinformation have been very quiet indeed. Probably because they did not manage to kill this legislation two years ago. In any event, if the authors had evidence of the fact that the Lobbyists did indeed mislead the media to manipulate the people would then it not have been in their best interest to add that to their piece?

I would have thought so, but evidently they felt not the need to back up their accusation of negligence with facts. Instead, the Representatives began to use misleading and somewhat false arguments in favor of the tax and Dirigo as a whole.

Let me begin with this quote;

It's important to remember that the focus of this legislation is on health care for people who need it, some of whom could die prematurely without coverage.
Those covered avoid expensive emergency-room visits that the rest of us pay for through higher premiums. By covering these people, Dirigo lowers costs imposed on the rest of us -- and saves lives.

Right, I have not met a single person in this fair state that does not know the new taxes are for to fund Dirigo. I agree it is important to remember that fact for it shows how inefficient the Dirigo program is. I also find that the above arguments, though emotive, contradict. "Some who could die prematurely" & " and saves Lives" Does it save lives? or does it have the possibility to save lives? You see by using the word " Could" in the first part, they detract from the second and do nothing to further their cause, no it simply causes confusion, perhaps that is the goal.

What is not confusing at all is the implication of the above statement that, " the costs associated with this tax are justified and that if you do not support said tax then you don't care for the people who are on the program". This is far from the truth, and to be honest a ploy, nothing more. The people of Maine understand as well as anyone the needs and costs of the Uninsured, to imply that they care not for their fellow citizens is rather low. The need for some kind of coverage is not in question.

Dirigo has failed in it's promise to cover the 130,000 Uninsured people of this State and to become self sustaining. That is a fact, pure and simple. To date about 14,000 individuals are covered by the program which is a far cry from what we were led to believe would be the case. No emotive " people will Die" scenario, straight information. I believe that the new law is egregious in that it is asking the tax payers of Maine to pay out more in subsides to Dirigo than a normal single payer policy could be.

It is this simple fact that has incurred the anger of the voters. Dirigo has failed, and now instead of seeking viable alternatives the Democratic Legislature says to it's people, you should pay more. Being a practical people, Mainers object to this logic. There is no need to continue funding that which does not work.

As these two Gentlemen continue on with their thesis they state:

First, none of the articles, including an article in this paper entitled "Drink tax repeal drive weighed," noted that 100 percent of Maine brewers are exempt from the beer tax.

This statement is a complete and utter falsehood, for the law specifically states;

1. Excise tax on malt liquor. An excise tax is imposed on the privilege of manufacturing and selling malt liquor in the State. The Maine manufacturer or importing wholesale licensee shall pay an excise tax of 25¢ per gallon on all malt liquor sold in the State that is manufactured by a manufacturer that produced a total of less than 100,000 barrels of malt liquor in the previous calendar year and 54¢ per gallon on all other malt liquor sold in the State.

So, though the Maine brewers will pay less than the larger out of state manufacturer, pay they will. Of interesting note is the fact that the above law actually hinders the Brewery industry's growth by doubling the tax once a manufacturer reaches 100,000 gallons. Business friendly Maine at it's finest.

I find it somewhat hypocritical of Rep. Faircloth and Sen. Bartlett, to make such a blatantly false statement whilst accusing the Press of not checking their facts. I for one would have thought these two Gentlemen should have at least looked at the law prior to writing their article, they did vote for it after all. I suppose that the need for fact checking rests with others, and is not their responsibility.

One last, and yes, long winded point before I lay this piece to rest. The creative and ingenious turn of phrase put forth by these two righteous souls that I found so captivating was " the Law of Beer Inertia".

I Quote;

Second, not one article reported on studies showing the effect of beer taxes. The "law of beer inertia" holds that adults who buy beer tend to continue to buy beer. However, studies show that higher taxes do deter a key group of people from drinking: minors -- precisely the group that society wants to dissuade from consuming alcohol.

The minute I read that highlighted phrase I smelled a rat, and as it turns out my nose was right again. Seeking out " the Law of Beer inertia" on the net for many an hour, I found no such theory or law, in either the scientific or economic world. No Bother, it seems these two men believe that by giving their particular argument, as to alcohol consumption and how taxes influence that consumption, such a grand pseudo-intellectual sounding title, it gives credibility and validity to their ideas. Perhaps, in some circles it does. I am sure that those of like mind with Rep. Faircloth find this theory quite enlightening and empowering.

I however, am not of like mind nor of status. Coming from rather simple stock I am forced to deal in reality and in so doing must dismiss this "Law" for what it is, HOGWASH, or Kool Aid if you prefer. No underage drinker ever actually calculated the tax on beer, even if they happened to be so obtuse, they certainly did not make a final purchase decision based upon a tax. The audacity to even suggest that such is the case is ridiculous and disingenuous. If as they state " Studies show" this to be then I say the studies are as faulty as the Senator's and Representative's reasoning. All one has to do is think back to your own youth.

But I must not be too harsh for these Gentlemen have given me reason to pause, contemplate and devise mine own theory of " Beer Inertia".

Blighter's Law of Beer Inertia; The more beer one consumes, the greater the possibility of that person becoming inert.

All joking aside, this last bit about Beer inertia is important in that it is indicative as to how our Representatives think. The article expresses ire and angst against media bias, when that bias falls not to that particular groups favor. OK I'll say it Liberal. It spews forth misinformation at every turn of phrase and does nothing to really address the issues surrounding the new Tax law or Dirigo as a whole.

This OP Ed Piece, is simply Kool Aid, nothing more. It attempts to justify the actions of a tax and spend government with falsehoods and emotive arguments. The writers must honestly believe that the people of Maine are simply too lazy or besotted, with their sinful beer consumption, to see the God's honest truth of the matter.

Fortunately for us, Representative Faircloth and Senator Bartlett, will be sharing the tax burden with us. Kool Aid is also to be taxed under this law, as they are such grand purveyors of the drink I am sure the State's Coffer's will be filled to over brimming with their contributions in no time.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Interesting Parade Float

This Float was part of a parade in Germany. My fried Rob sent me the photo and I immediately thought how poignant and amusing.

In any event I've posted the link to the source as well the comments on this display are absolutely enlightening. Source Hillary's backside

I very well could go into all of the symbolism and meaning of this but I shan't, in this case the old adage " A Picture is worth a thousand words" holds true.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Senator George Mitchell pays tribute to Paisley

Senator George Mitchell pays tribute to Paisley

Ian Paisley must be given credit for finally delivering power sharing in Northern Ireland
Senator George Mitchell has said.

As the First Minister prepares to step down from the Northern Ireland Executive, the former Maine Senator paid tribute to the 82-year-old North Antrim MP who walked out 11 years ago from the negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement.He said: "I have to say it has been a pleasant surprise seeing what has happened."

Senator Mitchell, who chaired the Stormont talks, continued"Dr Paisley deserves credit for doing the right thing at the right time."

He was speaking ahead of a conference at Queen`s University in Belfast later this month about how peace in Northern Ireland was achieved.

I found this small piece from UTV interesting for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is Senator Mitchell’s, seemingly faulty Memory.

Either George Mitchell has forgotten that it was Dr Paisley who coined the phrase “ Never, never, never” or he is simply playing lip service to his audience. Maybe he feels that the “Good Doctor” really did help in bringing about the peace process, but I for one am unconvinced.

Senator Mitchell also gave Hillary Clinton a pass on her claim that she had “helped to bring Peace to Northern Ireland.” It seems the Senator believes that anyone who says they did something to that effect , though the evidence points to the contrary, is deserving of the accolades and credit that the Nobel peace prize laureates John Hume and David Trimble received for their work on this monumental accord.

This revisionist viewpoint on, what I feel, is a very great event in the history of Northern Ireland, is not only shameful, as it cheapens the hard work of those who actually took part, but also shows a lack of character, in that through revisionism, the Senator is pandering to persons of power, or perceived power. I have long respected Senator Mitchell; I have held him in high regard for a man of principle, intellect and determination. Thus my anger and ire over this latest of statements.

Ian Paisley walked out of the assembly in protest when Sinn Fein was allowed in on the talks after the IRA cease fire. Then his Democratic Unionist Party began a campaign of vilification against the UUP that was then David Trimble’s party. It was not pretty to say the least. Though Ian Paisley and the DUP finally agreed to sit down and talk with Republicans, it was not during the GFA talks, but 11 years later when the good doctor was magnanimously offered the First Minister’s seat in the new Assembly.

Hillary Clinton did even less.

According to Lord Trimble formerly David Trimble.

Hillary Clinton had no direct role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and is a "wee bit silly" for exaggerating the part she played.”
"I don't know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don't want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player.

She did have tea with some Women’s groups that were already sitting down to meet, and she made a grand speech at Musgrave Park in Belfast while planting a Tree. The park was supposed to be a “Peace park“(I’m still laughing about that) where Children of both Nationalist and Unionist families could play together. The park is still empty, almost as empty as her rhetoric.

So, Senator Mitchell is giving these two individuals undue credit for their roles in the Peace process, one an avowed wrecker, the other a tea drinking opportunist. Whatever his motivation, intentional or not, he is cheapening and weakening the standing of those fine people who actually did work hard to accomplish the accord. Maybe if I call him and tell him about my Friend in Belfast he will afford me accolades in his next speech. Wouldn’t that be grand?


Friday, May 9, 2008

The Cost of Dirigo Health Plan

The 123rd Legislature of Maine during their most recent session passed a bill LD2247 titled “An Act to Continue Maine’s leadership in Covering the Uninsured”.

Now putting aside for the moment, the pompous title of this legislation, and the implication that Maine is somehow a leader in the fight to solve the problem of Insurance in America, which I say is a far stretch, I thought I should bring to light a few points that I find to be of great import on this.

Let me begin by looking at what the Bill means to you and I.

Quite simply LD2247 means MORE TAXES for the Citizens of this State. There is no way to get around that fact or spin it into anything else. The legislature is asking for;

$ 5 Million a year from the Fund for a Healthy Maine
$ 3.6 Million loan from the General Fund (which will lose the people of Maine $180,000 in interest earned)
$ 9.2 Million from a Soft drink Tax (this includes Soda, syrups, powdered drinks such as iced tea, and some Fruit Juices)
$ 7.5 Million from a tax on Beer and Wine.
$ 110 Million over the next three years from a new 1.8% “surcharge” (TAX) on paid health insurance claims

All of this money is needed to keep funding the Dirigo Health plan that our Governor is so fond and proud of. If we look at the number of enrolled persons in the Dirigo plan, which is not easy to do as those who oversee it cannot agree on the number, we can see that this money will go towards about 14,000 individuals over all.

Time for my calculator folks, let’s take the first four items on the tax and spend list in full, and divide the Claims tax portion by 3. That comes to $61,966,666. Let me subtract the $ 3.6 Million loan, as I’m sure we’ll see that money again, and the $ 5 million from the Fund as we won’t see any taxes from that item that comes to $ 53,366,666 per year in new taxes.

Now correct me if I am wrong but as I see it and according to our Representatives each person on the Dirigo health plan needs $4,426.19 per year in subsidies to use this program. For some strange reason, I find that figure a wee bit high, but the numbers tell the tale.

Essentially, the Maine State Government is reaching very deeply into its citizen’s pockets to keep a failed pet project afloat. But that is not the worst of it by a long shot, no indeed, for I believe the cost associated with each and every person on Dirigo is far higher than just the $4,426.19 we as taxpayers fork over to them. Let us not forget what each and every one of those businesses and individuals pay out in premiums on top of the subsidies. What the average figure is remains a mystery, as anything government run tends to be shrouded in billowing clouds of bureaucracy and confusion, and said information is difficult to obtain.

For arguments sake let’s say that an average single person pays $30 a month in premiums to Dirigo. I am sure that a family rate would be higher but we’ll leave it at single payer rate for this. At $30 a month x 14,000 members the premiums come to $ 420,000 per month or $ 5,040,000 a year. Add that figure to the government funding and you get $ 67,006,666 Million or $ 4,786.19 per person to insure through this program. This doesn’t take into account the matching premiums that employers pay in at all.

Right, so what anyone with even the most rudimentary of math skills can derive from the above calculations is that the huge increase in taxes is for a very small portion of our overall population. That the cost associated with running the program far exceeds the programs effectiveness and need, and that quite frankly the Dirigo plan is a failure of outstanding proportions.

Are you outraged yet? No?

Well I’m not finished. Let me quote Josh Tardy Republican Leader of the House Republicans.

On the same day the Legislature passed this abomination, it killed a terrific insurance reform bill that would have lowered health insurance costs across the board, including for Dirigo,” said Rep. Tardy (R-Newport). “Rather than bring sanity to our insurance system, the majority party decided the thing to do was make matters worse.” Source

Hmmm, so there was a reasonable free market reform package put before Legislature that would have reduced costs across the board and the majority Democrats rejected it in favor of taxing it’s already over taxed population.

Not caring what these new fees and taxes will mean to the average household in Maine, and ignoring viable and affordable alternatives to the failed Dirigo health plan, the Democrats pushed through this bill late at night on April the 15th, appropriately tax day, to feed not only their over inflated egos and ideas of self importance but also to further their agenda of Socialized medicine. It seems that the Actual social welfare of ALL the people does not really matter to the Majority leaders and their followers.

If that doesn’t upset you nothing will and I guess you should start thinking about heading for the back pasture.

That is not to say that there is no recourse to us ignorant plebeians. As I write this there are two separate People’s Veto petitions before the Secretary of State calling for the repeal of this new tax law. Once the Secretary approves the wording on these they will be sent out to the petitioners who will then begin to gather signatures. 55,000 voters need to sign the petition to allow the item to become a ballot referendum. The Petitions should be available beginning next week. I have volunteered to be a signature gatherer and once I have my petition in hand I will be campaigning for the people of Maine to repeal this most egregious and distasteful tax. Please contact me if you so desire to sign said petition, in the hopes that we can show the Legislature, that we the people of Maine have had enough of their tax and spend policies. We can show them we are not going to bow to this kind of back room, late night dealing, which not only burdens us with more taxes, but deceives us as well.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Crying Game

It seems every time I turn on the Tele these days I cannot help but run across some person actually weeping before the Nation. It is almost a required prerequisite prior to going on any live show or news cast. We see it on talk shows and reality TV, we watch patiently as the young mother tries to catch her breath, and hold back the tears as she talks about welfare “Rights” and needed services. We take in the hard luck story of how little Joey’s Dad didn’t come to his ball game, relayed by his dear old’ Ma, as she testifies as to why her son had to murder three people in cold blood, with tears in her eyes. We hear the apologies and watch the waterworks as the convicted rapist apologizes to the family he destroyed.

With all this crying going on you would think that we as a society accept and condone such displays. Maybe we do……. I however, do not and cannot understand this.

I was brought up to believe that the shedding of tears is a private matter. If one feels grief that necessitates the release of saline then that person should do so away from the public eye. Dignity demands that those not known to the afflicted, avert their eyes and give said person a bit of time and room to compose themselves. To cry in public, unabashedly, is a display of weakness. It reflects badly on the individual and it disrespects ones family and name. I have no patience for the whiners and criers on television for they embody the moral decay of our culture and society as a whole.

I would no more let my emotions show in public, than I would cut my member off to prove my manhood. Both actions emasculate you. As a boy I would of course, cry at times, but in public? Never. It was unheard of, and if a child in our neighborhood was in pain or upset, off to the side they went, perhaps with a good friend or sibling to wipe away their tears. If a parent was about they would console the injured party, and admonish the rest of us heathens for our recklessness. However, to stand before your peers and weep with no attempt to hide said pain, or to try and compose oneself, would have been doom. Anyone foolish enough to do so would have been ridiculed and picked on mercilessly.

It comes down to acceptable forms of behavior.

As I stated above it was not, and still is not, acceptable to weep in public. We all know that grief is a private affair that is best kept on a personal familial level. Our parents taught us this most basic of lessons early on, perhaps when we first scraped our knee on the sidewalk, or were bitten by the neighbor’s dog. We also learn this as we go through life and we attend funerals. Ask yourself, when was the last time you attended a Funeral where there was wailing and keening? The survivors of a lost loved one have more of a right than anyone to weep yet, most compose themselves with dignity and strength through the ceremony. Even if they do not, generally the person so afflicted with sorrow, is quietly walked out of the public eye so they may not be stared at in their moment of despair. It is just right and proper is it not?

I’m guessing not, as evidenced by programs like Oprah, Montel, and even the News. I can almost predict at what point anyone of the hapless souls to be videotaped will begin to cry. You can see them working themselves up sitting before the show’s host and the entire world, waiting for the final question that breaks their composure. Unlike those who have suffered real tragedy such as lost comrades on the field of battle, or a Fireman perishing in the flames, These folks suffer the burden of greater sorrow over such topics as, being over weight, failing to pay their credit card debt, and my personal favorite their poor childhood. These morons cry so you the people of America can feel sympathy for them. The problem with that is that it is wasted effort. Why should I allow some 300 lb person with no self control, to attempt to high jack my emotions so that they can simply feel better about themselves? Piss on em, if they really wanted to feel better about themselves then they would get up off arse and go work in the yard, stop whining and crying.

It is almost as if the whole thing is an act. But I don’t think so, for it happens far too often for all of the various incidents to be staged. No, it has become acceptable to demean ones self in public, in fact, it almost required.

Being “Old fashioned”, as I am oft times described, I cannot but cringe and growl at the lack of self respect shown on the “Boob Tube” everyday. I am sickened and agitated every time some man is interviewed for the news and he cries tears as he explains that his Da hit him. SO WHAT? Every person in my neighborhood got the belt when they were out of line, you don’t see us all crying about it do you? The producers, I suppose, want the viewers to “Feel” something for their subject. In that they have been successful for I have much feeling for them indeed, but I’m betting is not the feeling’s they were looking for.

Essentially what I am saying is that, we as a society have allowed this kind of behavior to become acceptable. In so doing we undermine the strength of not only the individual but society as a whole. It saddens me that we have actually come to this.