De León announced Monday he has hired the law office of Amy Oppenheimer to conduct an external investigation into harassment and assault allegations, and the consulting firm CPS HR Consulting to review Senate policies on harassment, discrimination and retaliation.
“There’s always more employers can do to protect their employees,” De León said in a statement. “Everyone deserves a workplace free of fear, harassment and sexual misbehavior and I applaud the courage of women working in and around the Capitol who are coming forward and making their voices heard [Melanie Mason, “California Senate Hires Investigators to Look into Sexual Harassment Allegations,” Los Angeles Times, 2017.10.23].
It would be a challenge to find a South Dakota law firm that doesn’t have connections of some sort to sitting legislators or whose partners aren’t being bombarded with campaign fundraising letters from their Attorney General and thus might feel a little biased in any investigation of major political figures. If we brought in outside reviewers to review behavior and policies during Session, we’d need to find some lawyers or other legally smart investigators with no bills pending, no law school connections, no horse in any race on the 2018 ballot. I don’t know if such investigators exist in South Dakota, but finding such impartial investigators might be the only way to guarantee that victims who come forward with allegations of sexism in Pierre will get a fair hearing and be protected from retribution for blowing the whistle on the privileged partiarchs.
Senator Marion Michael Rounds, like all Trump enablers, had a really bad week. Senator Rounds caps off his really bad week by writing a really bad column. “Government-Run Health Care Does Not Work,” moans Senator Rounds, after seven months in which he and his Republican majority haven’t really worked.
If you read no other response to Senator Rounds’s sniveling horsehockey, read this:
No Democrat I know of is advocating “government-run health care.” No one is saying we should nationalize every hospital, make every doctor a government employee, and submit everyone’s diagnosis and treatment to a vote of Congress.
Following recent votes in the Senate, it’s clear that reforming our health care system is no easy task [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
You and your party sure thought health care reform was easy during seven years of shouting, “Repeal ObamaCare!” Only “following recent votes” does the difficulty of the task become clear to you? Unlike you and your Dear Leader, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party knew that health care could be so complicated, and when they took over in 2009, they spent over a year crafting a workable plan that is helping Americans today.
However, I remain committed to working with my colleagues toward a solution. We believe affordable health care is best achieved through a competitive, market-based system that allows for innovation, competition and optionality [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
“Competitive, market-based system” is at the core of every plan your party has put to a vote this year, and every one of those plans failed to win enough Republican votes to pass. “Competitive, market-based system” was also at the core of the part of the health care system prior to the ACA (and Medicaid, and Medicare) that failed to deliver coverage and care for poor, old, and sick Americans. Your “competitive, market-based system” does not work in health care.
In the quest to address Obamacare’s failures, some have been advocating for a single-payer, government-run health care system in which health care is provided for every single citizen for free and financed by taxes [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Wrong—see above: government-paid, not government-run. Also, single-payer does not make care free. We all pay, through our taxes, just like we all pay now through insurance. We just pay a lot less.
Care is rationed, and citizens cede their health care decisions to a central government bureaucracy [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Additionally, the cost makes it unsustainable for future generations. Either taxes – which are already too high – will continue to skyrocket in order to pay for universal care, our debt will spiral even further out of control, or both [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Wrong—single-payer is cheaper than private insurance, so single-payer is more sustainable than the current system.
Our ability to make decisions for ourselves and our families will suffer. Bureaucrats don’t like taking advice [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Do Grandma and Grandpa’s ability to make decisions suffer under Medicare? And how much advice do the profit-driven agents at your family insurance agency like to take from patients?
And we have many examples to substantiate this: In the U.S., California and Vermont recently tried to implement universal health care at the state level; both were abandoned as quickly as they were enacted due to its cost [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
However, a report by professors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, commissioned in part by National Nurses United, estimated that after taking in the savings of single-payer, such as lower administrative costs and prices of pharmaceuticals, the actual cost of the plan would end up at around $331 billion. And, because 70 percent of the state’s current health care spending is covered by public programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal, California would only need to come up with $106 billion in new revenue, which researchers proposed could be done through two new taxes (a 2.3 percent gross receipts and sales tax), with exemptions for small businesses and tax credits to offset costs for low-income families. In exchange, nearly all of Californians’ medical expenses would be covered, doing away with premiums, copays, and deductibles [Clio Chang, “What Killed Single-Payer in California?” New Republic, 2017.06.30].
That exchange—taxes go up but premiums, copays, and deductibles go bye-bye—turns out to be a good deal:
But let’s say they’re right and the cost is closer to $400 billion overall, and that $100 billion in new revenues is needed (the high end of their $50b-$100b scale). That would pencil out to a monthly cost to each Californian of $208. ($100 billion / 40 million = $2500, which is the annual sum; divide that by 12 and you’re at $208.)
The average monthly premium for a Californian, as of 2016, was just under $600. For a household, it’s just above $1600.
In other words, even assuming the fiscally conservative analysis of the Senate Appropriations Committee and spreading the cost evenly across every Californian, single-payer would cost a third of what it currently costs Californians – just for health insurance alone. And unlike the present system, this would mean Californians don’t have to pay anything else beyond that $208/mo. No copays. No co-insurance. No out of pocket costs (at least within the Golden State). The ultimate savings would therefore be even greater. Californians could wind up paying just a quarter of what they pay now, if not less [“Single-Payer Would Cost a Third of Current Health Care Costs Per Family,” Health California, 2017.05.26].
…even [Governor Peter] Shumlin’s projections indicated that the plan would reduce Vermont’s overall health spending and lower costs for the 90% of Vermont families with household incomes under $150,000. Despite differing projections, all three studies showed that single payer was economically feasible [John E. McDonough, “The Demise Of Vermont’s Single-Payer Plan,” New England Journal of Medicine, 2015.04.23].
Now back to Senator Rounds:
In Canada, long wait times in their single-payer system are the norm.According to a Fraser Institute report, British Columbia residents have to wait up to six months just to get an MRI. Ontario’s own Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care states that residents may have to wait up to 11 months for hip replacement surgery [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Sure, Canada’s wait times exceed the international average, but…
Overall, then, that’s about 0.13 percent of Canadians and 0.08 percent of Americans who flee their countries for health care. Those are pretty similar numbers. The only real difference is the reason for leaving. Canadians mostly cite wait times for elective surgery. Americans mostly cite the high cost of medical treatment [Kevin Drum, “Americans Flee America for Overseas Health Care Just Like Canadians,” Mother Jones, 2017.02.08].
Thus destroyed on the Canadian comparison, Senator Rounds flees to Europe:
Across Europe, where universal health care is prevalent, the cost to governments for this care is exploding, contributing to rising national debts. But instead of increasing taxes, which oftentimes are already over 50 percent of one’s income, governments are slowing down care to curb the cost, and innovation is stymied [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
While there are good employees in South Dakota at both agencies, nationwide these programs have been plagued with decades of long wait times, bureaucratic mismanagement, corruption and – most importantly – providing inadequate quality of care to Americans. In some cases, patients have even died waiting for care. Meanwhile, administrative costs have skyrocketed, wasting countless taxpayer dollars on paperwork instead of focusing on patient care [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
The IHS is chronically underfunded. It receives a set amount of money each year to take care of 2.2 million native people — no matter how much care they may need. On the reservation, IHS facilities often don’t have services that people elsewhere expect, such as emergency departments or MRI machines. And those limited facilities can be hours away by car. In town, reaching care is easier, but clinics also don’t have enough funding to meet all of the health needs of the community. And people can’t get the free medication they are entitled to through the IHS anywhere but an IHS facility.
…In 2013, Indian Health Service spending for patient health services was $2,849 a person, compared with $7,717 for health care spending nationally, according to a report from the National Congress of American Indians. That despite the fact that Native Americans typically have more serious health problems than the general public, including higher rates of diabetes, liver disease and unintentional injuries [Misha Friedman, “For Native Americans Health Care Is a Long, Hard Road Away,” NPR, 2016.04.13].
A set amount of money each year—that’s exactly what Senator Rounds wanted to do to Medicaid. Senator Rounds would have ignored the care the poor actually need, just as he ignores the care American Indians under IHS actually need.
I wholeheartedly believe that everyone should have access to quality health care if they want it. No one should be priced out of health insurance for themselves or their families [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
But forcing all Americans onto a costly, ineffective system that will reduce the quality of care and making them surrender all control of their health care decisions to the federal government is not the answer [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
The Republican plans you voted for, Senator Rounds, would have forced millions to pay more for insurance policies that cover less than their current plans. And no one under the ACA, the Canada Health Act, the UK National Health Service, or Australian Medicare has “surrender[ed] all control of their health care decisions to the federal government.” You’re not criticizing a real policy alternative here, Senator Rounds. You’re crying “Dragon!” to distract us from what you’re trying to burn down.
America is home to the best health care providers in the world, due to a free market system that allows for innovation and competition. Replacing Obamacare with a competitive, free-market system that actually controls costs, allows for innovation and focuses on the patient will allow us to continue our proud tradition of being the world’s health leader [Rounds, 2017.07.28].
Nothing in your three votes directly provided for more innovation, cost control, or focus on patients. Your votes just would have made health insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans.
* * *
That’s every word of Senator Rounds’s column on “government-run health care,” and darn near every word is wrong.
Unable to win on the facts, unable to persuade a majority in the Senate away from Barack Obama’s so-far successful Affordable Care Act, Senator Mike Rounds resorts to fiction to win an argument no one is making. We don’t want government-run health care. We just want a more efficient way to pay the bills. Toward that end, Senator Rounds has offered nothing of substance. Nothing.
Check out the latest Dakota Free Press Podcast! In Episode #17, Spencer Dobson interviews NSU art professor Greg Blair about his upcoming book on errant bodies, mobility, and political resistance(what’s an “errant body”? Think Amelia Earhart and Black Flag!), and gets Greg’s perspective as a native Canadian on contemporary politics and Canadian national identity.
But first, Spencer and I hash out California’s travel ban, high-risk pools, the pink slime settlement, NorthWestern Energy’s upgrades to our local electrical system, and gerrymandering. Just another day at the podcast office…
So hey! If you’d like to help keep our lights on, ring the Dakota Free Press Blog Tip Jar! Every dollar you send via PayPal helps us keep the server humming and good conversation about politics, the Constitution, and South Dakota coming your way!
“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights. Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century. I am announcing today that I am adding four states to the list of states where California-funded or sponsored travel will be restricted on account of the discriminatory nature of laws enacted by those states,” said Attorney General Becerra. “While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back. That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it” [California Office of the Attorney General, press release, 2017.06.22].
The travel ban includes California’s public universities, which means that UC Irvine—or at least the coaches who are state employees—will not be able to return to Sioux Falls to play basketball this year. If any California teams scheduled games in South Dakota or other ban states before California’s anti-discrimination law was enacted on January 1, 2017, those teams may still travel and play, but scheduling future meetings now is out.
Evidently (Kristi) there’s more to protecting life than screaming about abortion. Let’s keep funding Planned Parenthood and get the government from between women and the doctors and health services that can keep them alive.
Bank settlement and impending EB-5 trial in Vermont, EB-5 felony plea bargain in South Dakota… we have proven waste, fraud, and abuse in American immigration policy, yet a President who won votes by shouting about immigration reform doesn’t notice, and Congress persistently resists reform. Maybe distraction and inaction are the best we can hope for—maybe the distraction of this week’s kamikaze budgeting will lead to inaction on EB-5 and a quiet, overdue expiration of a bad immigration program.
California, like South Dakota (there’s an intro that should give the SDGOP the creeps), started raising its minimum wage in 2014. California pretzel CEO Bill Phleps, like bumper-car bosses Al and David Novstrup, got nervous. But then, unlike South Dakota’s Republican Novstrups, Phelps looked at actual data:
Sales at his California stores immediately shot up.
“I was shocked,” Phelps says. “I was stunned by the business.”
The same exact pattern took place again in 2016, when the minimum wage rose again, Phelps said. There was a wage increase, and then boom, a bump in same-store sales across the state that held for most of the year.
The California Energy Commission has passed sweeping energy-efficiency standards for computers and monitors in an effort to reduce power costs, becoming the first state in the nation to adopt such rules.
The standards require computers and monitors to draw less power while idling. These changes will cut residential power usage by 3%, commercial power usage by 7%, and greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel-burning power plants by 700,000 tons a year. The electricity saved is enough to power all the homes in San Francisco and San Luis Obispo counties, about 350,000 homes. If we assume proportionate computer and power usage in South Dakota, those standards would save enough electricity to power Roberts and Oglala Lakota counties, or our thirteen smallest counties (Miner, Faulk, Sanborn, Potter, Jerauld, Mellette, Haakon, Buffalo, Campbell, Hyde, Sully, Harding, and Jones), or almost all of Lawrence County.
These standards will come to South Dakota and everywhere else, because, as with Texas and textbooks, as goes California on technology, so goes the nation:
But the rules could have a much wider impact on the US. California is a massive market for technology, with an estimated 25 million computer monitors, 21 million desktop computers, and 23 million notebooks currently being used in the state. In many cases, a manufacturer will find it more economical to meet California’s standards for all products it sells in the US than to create an energy efficient version of its products for California and an less-energy-efficient version of its products for the rest of the US [Megan Guess, “California Adopts First Energy-Efficiency Standards for PCs in US,” Ars Technica, 2016.12.15].
By 2021, the commission estimates, the new rules will make the cost of each desktop about $14 more expensive, but consumers would save more than $55 over five years in reduced energy bills.
Monitors will cost about $5 more but are expected to lead to $30 in savings over seven years, the commission said. It said that laptops will cost about $1 more, but that energy savings in four years will be more than $2 [Nikolewski, 2016.12.15].
Federal environmental policy is about to fall apart, but we can still look to smart states like California to drive positive energy and environmental policy.
The litigants might want to check California, where a state appeals court just reversed a 2014 decision and upheld California’s teacher tenure laws, finding that protecting teachers from arbitrary firing and retribution does not cause kids to get a bad education:
“The challenged statutes do not inevitably lead to the assignment of more inexperienced teachers to schools serving poor and minority children,” Presiding Justice Roger Boren said in the 3-0 ruling. “Rather, assignments are made by administrators and are heavily influenced by teacher preference and collective bargaining agreements.”
I’m surprised and relieved we didn’t revisit this old argument in South Dakota this year during our debate over raising teacher salaries. But with big-money interests trying to push school privatization with stealth vouchers, we must watch for other attempts to undermine public schools. “Tenure”—and it really belongs in mocking quotation marks, since no real tenure exists in K-12 education, just “continuing contract”—does not stop conscientious school administrators and boards from getting rid of bad teachers. It just requires them to get their ducks in a row and give all teachers due process, just as we do in the justice system, to protect good, innocent teachers from being removed for bad reasons. Let’s hope the Minnesota courts follow California in recognizing that fact.