Friday Reads: An Immodest Proposal

$_35 Good Morning!

One of the many things that continues to fascinate me these days is that the number of people voting for Democrats and indicating more faith in that party than the Republican one begins to grow.  Yet, the results of the recent election show that it hardly matters.  States with more cows than people get an equal say in the U.S. Senate and that is a problem.  In fact, “Senate Democrats got 20 million more votes than Senate Republicans. Which means basically nothing.”

Here’s another: Democratic candidates in all of the races won by Republicans or Democrats got about 98.7 million votes. Republican candidates in those same races got 94.1 million.

The 20 million figure, in other words, is cherry-picked to accentuate the gap. Vox’s analysis comes from a researcher at FairVote, which advocates for reforms to how members of Congress are elected.

Interestingly, Republicans got as many votes when losing to Democrats (about 47 million) as they did when beating Democrats. Democratic losers, though, got only about 31.3 million votes in losing. In other words: Democrats won their races by 20.3 million votes combined — Republicans won theirs by 15.7 million.

Trende points out a key reason for this: Most of the Republicans won in lower-turnout elections. It’s true that there were smaller states up for grabs this year: If you total the population from every state with an election this year — including Oklahoma and South Carolina twice — and divide by the number of races, you get about 48.7 million, compared to 72.7 million on average in 2012. But Republicans won 46 of their 54 seats in 2010 and 2014, compared to the Democrats, who won 23 of their 44 in 2012. In 2010, total turnout was about 90 million. Two years later, thanks to the presidential election, it was 40 million votes higher.

Another interesting tidbit is that these states cost the country a lot more than they are literally worth.  They are a huge drain on the country’s finances and require a vast number of subsidies while decrying the use of subsidies by people.Landscape

Many “red states” beat their chest as being fiscally conservative. Proud of their low income tax, business friendly environment, and self-reliance rhetoric.

But is it fair?

California, a “blue state,” gets just $.80 back for every $1 they put in. New York, even worse. They get less than $.75 on their dollar.

Whose going to start calling out the hypocrisy of some of the red states who point fingers at states like California and New York as the problem? These states want self-reliance? On what? California and New York’s goodwill?

This isn’t something Democrats should be proud of. They’re leaders are the one’s sitting there while their citizens get the short end of the stick.

Not something Republicans should be proud of either. Kinda hard to be the fiscal conservative when you ask Uncle Sam to pay your bills.

imagesA lot of these states were brought in as territories via the Louisiana Purchase or at the close of the Mexican American War.  Most of these states have a vast amount of land–a lot of it actually owned and managed by the Federal Government–and they were probably brought in at a time when a lot of folks thought the middle of the country would eventually fill up with people or at least become a place with a viable economy.  Many Native American nations were literally rolled over to create vast wastelands of ranches and natural resource extraction outposts.  Does it really makes sense to continue to support the way these outback states were carved out and is there any legal way to consolidate them now?

Yes, this would decrease the number of Senators in the Senate.  But, it would mean each Senator would be slightly more powerful. It actually might improve the odds of an outback state’s House delegation having more power. I mean, really, Nebraska has 3 Congressmen.  Who ever listens to even one of them?  They’re a basic flyover state in terms of the presidential election too.  They usually get a hit and run by a vice president or vice presidential candidate.  If they were part of a larger state with similar topography and concerns, they’d be part of state with a larger congressional block even though they’d fold into one or more states and thereby share a Senator with more people and antelope.

So, why can’t we look at Outback States like Idaho, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, etc.  and just consolidate them?  Why shouldn’t Nebraska and the Dakotas become one state?  Or say, why not fold Idaho, Montana and Wyoming into Washington?  Why should every one in the country suffer from the leadership these outback states send to the Senate while having to pay so much for them even to exist?  Is there some way to redo these old territories into larger, consolidated states with a more economically viable level of population to support the vast areas of nothing but nature that basically define their states?  Could we do it?

A long time ago, I remember a proposal called The Buffalo Commons made by Frank and Deborah Popper.  It was a suggestion to turn a large part of the middle of the country into a huge National Park that would be left to the wild.  I bet it would still be controversial today and more impossible given that setting up more National Parks is likely to be more unpopular today than it was 40 years ago.  But, many of the same problems the concept worked to solve still exist, and now we have even bigger issues since our outback states are high maintenance and tend to send representatives with a coup mentality to Congress. Why can’t we just consolidate a few of them and try to at least make them less costly to the rest of us?   It’s even more important from a resource protection standpoint as indicated by the stupidity surrounding the Keystone Pipeline. This is a boondoggle which benefits the special interests of a few politicians and is likely to create risk to the many including the folks living in these states.  Wouldn’t it be nice for them to have a lot more say in the future of how federal lands and federal co-option of private land operates?

In 1987, Drs. Frank and Deborah Popper developed their bold new idea for a Buffalo Commons, (Popper and Popper, “The Great Plains: From Dust to Dust, PLANNING, 1987). Their continuing research showed that hundreds of counties in the American West still have less than a sparse 6 persons per square mile — the density standard Frederick Jackson Turner used to declare the American Frontier closed in 1893. Many have less than 2 persons per square mile.

The frontier never came close to disappearing, and in fact has expanded in the Plains in recent years. The 1980 Census showed 388 frontier counties west of the Mississippi. The 1990 Census shows 397 counties in frontier status, and the 2000 Census showed 402. Most of this frontier expansion is in the Great Plains. Kansas actually has more land in frontier status than it did in 1890.

Great Plains Restoration Council mounted a Plains-wide mapping project at the county level, using a series of economic and social indicators, to show exactly where the frontier is and how much further it has expanded. GPRC than did more sophisticated mapping that scrutinized these and other factors down to the Census Block level, allowing for a much more rigorous and exact understanding of ecological, biological, geographical, topographical, demographic and political conditions. Since then, we have specifically honed our focus onto a few, key target ecological areas while developing a new model of youth education.

There once were over 400 million acres of wild prairie grasslands in the central part of North America. The backbone of the Buffalo Commons movement is the work — over a period of decades — to re-establish and re-connect prairie wildland reserves and ecological corridors large enough for bison and all other native prairie wildlife to survive and roam freely, over great, connected distances, while simultaneously restoring the health and sustainability of our communities wherever possible so that both land and people may prosper for a very long time. Future generations may choose to expand these reserves and corridors, as the new culture of caring and belonging we have started today becomes an integral, ingrained part of life in the world of tomorrow, especially as extensive grasslands become needed to help absorb carbon from the atmosphere. (Highly biodiverse native prairies are excellent carbon sequesters.)

vintage-photos-of-wild-west.-part-2-23-pics_19So, I’m not a legal expert, but it seems if a state can be made out of a territory then several states can be merged into something more viable for the modern country.  I’d love to hear if anyone thinks this is way to bring more democratic representation to the country.   Frankly, I think this could be a win win situation if some of these people would give up their provincial loyalties.

Again, the consolidation would bring a larger delegation to the House for a combined state, and it might make them feel more relevant to the Presidential election process.  Right now, everyone ignores nearly every state but Colorado on the way across the Mississippi to hear about California. I’ve actually lived in states that I think would make good candidates to consolidate with other states so I do have some knowledge of what it’s like to live in the Great American Outback.  I certainly believe it makes a lot of sense to look to see if those territories would’ve been dealt a better situation had they be carved out into different looking states.  This is especially true since so many of them really don’t have all that many people in them and most of them are have been losing population for some time.  What exactly constitutes a ghost state?

Here’s a few other things you can think on today.

Here are two studies on the Affordable Healthcare Act. One is by the Rand Corporation and the other by the Brookings Institute.  It’s especially relevant to look at the link between the law and the tax credits since this is the next challenge to the law to come before SCOTUS.  The last was the idea that states could opt out of the Medicaid Expansion which created a horrible situation for those of us in states ruled by Red State Crazies. First some points from the Brookings Institute.

In “The Early Impact of the Affordable Care Act State-by-State,” Brookings nonresident fellow in Economic Studies and Yale University Economics Department faculty member Amanda Kowalski finds that national enrollment trends obscure significant variation across states, as a result of the types of people who opted in and how insurers set premiums. Across all states, from before the fourth quarter of 2013 to the first half of 2014, enrollment-weighted average per-person premiums in the individual health insurance market rose by 24.4% beyond what they would have had they simply followed state-level seasonally-adjusted trends. This large increase stands in contrast to the experience in Massachusetts, which saw premium decreases after its 2006 reform, as documented by Kowalski in previous joint research. Massachusetts also saw decreases in markups (premiums minus costs), which have been rare in other states in 2014.

Kowalski focuses on the individual insurance market using data through the second quarter of 2014 after the open enrollment period ended. She characterizes states into five groups, based on their involvement in the implementation of the ACA. On one extreme were the 5 “direct enforcement” states that ceded all enforcement of the ACA to the federal government (Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming). On the other extreme were 8 states (Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington) that took the implementation of the ACA into their own hands by implementing the Medicaid expansion and setting up their own exchanges. Another group of 5 of these states also set up their own exchanges and expanded Medicaid, but experienced severe technology glitches (Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon), so she examines them as a distinct group. The two groups in the middle of the implementation spectrum include a set of 11 states that adopted the Medicaid expansion but did not set up their own exchanges (Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and West Virginia) and a set of 19 “passive” states that did not fit into any of the other four groups (Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin) – they took some role in implementing the ACA, but did not implement the Medicaid expansion, and they used the federal exchange. All comparisons exclude California and New Jersey because their data are not complete, and they also exclude Massachusetts, because Massachusetts implemented its own reform in 2006.

She finds that individuals in “direct enforcement” states – those states that that ceded all enforcement of the ACA to the federal government (Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming) – are worse off by approximately $245 per participant on an annualized basis, relative to participants in states that were passive implementers of the ACA.

Kowalski also finds, not surprisingly, that the 5 states that had severe glitches with their exchanges (Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon) are worse off than other states with well-functioning state exchanges (Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), by a large magnitude – approximately $750 per participant on an annualized basis. On the other hand, participants in states that set up well-functioning exchanges were better off than they would have been had their states been passive by approximately $420 per enrollee.

Reviewing data on the 27 states that adopted the Medicaid expansion, she finds that those that expanded were better off than all other states, although the amount is not statistically significant.

Kowalski also divides states based on whether they allowed renewal of non-grandfathered plans in response to the backlash that if people “liked their plan they could keep it” (27 did, but DC and the remaining 23 did not). She finds that participants in states that allowed renewal of non-grandfathered plans are worse off by around $220 annually than participants in other states who did not allow grandfathered non-compliant plans – likely because the people who remained in non-grandfathered plans were healthier than other people in the individual health insurance market.

Using the most recent data collected by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and compiled by SNL Financial, which includes individual health insurance enrollment outside of the exchanges, Kowalski takes a broader view than the widely-cited report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), which reported 8 million exchange enrollees in May. By taking a broader view, Kowalski is able to observe trends in the individual health insurance market from before the exchanges opened for business. Taking these trends into account, at least 4.2 million enrollees are newly-covered in this market (many were likely previously uninsured, but some may have switched from other types of coverage).

Looking at the states individually, she finds that the law benefitted enrollees in at least 13 states (Alaska, Connecticut, DC, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont), with Maine enrollees gaining the most at around $1500 per market participant annually, whereas Oregon (a state with severe glitches on its website and roll-out) experienced the greatest loss – around $850 annually per participant.

The Rand Study has these findings.0b1699a08592d678a7df2a680ad3da5e

In this research report, RAND Corporation researchers assess the expected change in enrollment and premiums in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)–compliant individual market in federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) states if the U.S. Supreme Court decides to eliminate subsidies in FFM states. The analysis used the Comprehensive Assessment of Reform Efforts (COMPARE) microsimulation model, an economic model developed by RAND researchers, to assess the impact of proposed health reforms. The authors found that enrollment in the ACA–compliant individual market, including plans sold in the marketplaces and those sold outside of the marketplaces that comply with ACA regulations, would decline by 9.6 million, or 70 percent, in FFM states if subsidies were eliminated. They also found that unsubsidized premiums in the ACA–compliant individual market would increase 47 percent in FFM states. This corresponds to a $1,610 annual increase for a 40-year-old nonsmoker purchasing a silver plan.

Key Findings

Enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)–Compliant Individual Market Would Decline Significantly in Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) States

  • Individual-market enrollment would decline by an estimated 70 percent, or 9.6 million people.
  • This decline includes plans sold in the marketplaces and those sold outside of the marketplaces that comply with ACA regulations.

Unsubsidized Premiums in the ACA-Compliant Individual Market Would Increase 47 Percent in FFM States

  • This corresponds to a $1,610 annual increase for a 40-year-old nonsmoker purchasing a silver plan.

As you can see, eliminating Federal Subsidies would basically make health insurance unaffordable for many many people again.

So, I’ve been a little radical today. What’s on you reading and blogging list today?

37 Comments on “Friday Reads: An Immodest Proposal”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    You make a good argument for consolidating some of the small-population states. I can’t imagine the Republicans letting it happen, but it’s an interesting idea.

    I was surprised to see that Nebraska receives even less in federal funds for each dollar they pay in than New York–only $.67!

    What would you do with Alaska? It has an even smaller population than North Dakota, a little more than 700,000. They get $1.93 back for every tax dollar paid to the Federal government, but they have almost no state taxes and each citizen of Alaska gets paid around $3,000 per year out of oil profits. They are robbing the rest of us blind. Maybe we should take away their statehood.

    • dakinikat says:

      I am interested in checking out why we granted territories statehood including the last few. Many states were basically formed of land supposedly granted to Native Americans too. There’s been pushes some of the last territories for statehood and we now seem reticent about those.

      • NW Luna says:

        why not fold Idaho, Montana and Wyoming into Washington?

        We don’t want them!

        • Fannie says:

          Crack me up Luna.

          • NW Luna says:

            It’s bad enough with the eastern half of Washington state. Most of that area votes Republican. Still, we keep getting our 2 women Senators re-elected, thanks to population density on the west side. And a fair percentage of the east-side votes, I suspect.

        • dakinikat says:

          Lol … They could standalone as one state too. Guess you have enough issues with Eastern Washington. I wish New Orleans could become a city state.

      • Fannie says:

        My guess Dak, is that it all had to with stealing the land from the Natives for a blanket, and marble. Makes me think of the Treaty of Danicing Rabbit. It also had to do with early land grants, example is the ranchero’s in California, they were large grants, later (49ers) Gold/Silver Rush in Nevada, and Colorado (Up on Cripple Creek). Some people got lucky in other states, like in Virginia where they allocated large grants to some, but not all. Another thing was the Federal Military, US Army, these being Dragoons who were building early Forts paving the way to protect the white folks movement towards the West. The Oklahoma Land Rush comes to mind too. You have to remember these people moving back about had wagons, but most were on foot. They actually could feel it, but it crippled them in a lot of ways they were expecting. Most were given homesteads for about 160 acres each, that make me think of wheat, and sod houses of Nebraska. This all went hand in hand with real estate transactions, and railroads. In a heart beat we had the Cowboys and Indians thing on the trails. If you went into Las Vegas, New Mexico, with your family and some cows for grazing, good lord you would have been lucky, down that road were other things, like lead, copper and iron. Here in Idaho I was Boise City Fort, and the miners all around. They really pushed the Natives back, and had violent fights all over this country. Our history is chock full of ghost towns (Oregon/Washington) from back then, and many falling in the same path now. The people in rural America have a certain way of life, I lived it for years, and was still considered an outsider. They want change, but putting prisons, and windmills, and windmills and prisons is not positive growth.

        I guess I am part of preserving those towns and histories. I don’t want to take away, I want people to give back. Does that make sense?

        • dakinikat says:

          History remains and no ones land would be taken. Small towns are merged into cities now.

          • Fannie says:

            You know I went back home this past fall. It was the hardest thing, I really suffered depression when Wells Fargo took my home. The one I built, from dirt up. The one where I gave birth to two children, the one I worked so damn hard, our blood, our sweat, our home. The farm, the ranch, call it that too. It was on the market for some time, the drought hit, and both my husband and I needed to be near to hospitals for care, and by our children. So we left, and freakin Wells Fargo wouldn’t deal with us. Like others we got screwed. But nobody was buying, not the home, not the farm, not the ranch. So going home, I had to see what I lost for the first time in couple years. All I could think about was “lost”, as in gone, no more family treasure, and lots more gray hair. Come to find out, my attachment for what was, and what is now, or of two different worlds. But, I did see, people who were dying, the place that was dying, in need of a repair, and paint. I did see businesses closing, and the area hospital only had one damn doctor left. Women giving birth must drive 75 miles to nearest hospital. Another ghost town in the making. I see the need for changes. I do.

          • dakinikat says:

            Gosh Fannie! What a story! You should write a book!

          • Oh I know..that story you told, about your family…and how it is being made into a movie. Fascinating.

            I wanted to comment on it last week but with my computer issues, just could not get online like I wanted to. Speaking of which, I am using my new laptop now. It is nothing fancy, in fact it is just like my other Lenovo laptop only this one was under 400 bucks. Funny how things can go down in cost over the years for the same technology. (Well, this one has more RAM and memory) but still. lol

    • dakinikat says:

      Here’s an interesting thing:

      Louisiana ranks 2nd for reliance on federal dollars, newspaper reports

      • bostonboomer says:

        That’s weird. That map is completely different from the other one you posted. It has North Dakota on the low side too. Something is fishy here.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Now that the NYPD are protesting the mayor with a slowdown, people in Bedford-Styvesant finally feel safe for the first time in a long time.

    Life Without Police

  3. bostonboomer says:

    This is awful.

    Nebraska Supreme Court Says Yes To Keystone Route

    In a victory for proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the pipeline’s proposed route through the state can go forward.

    The decision means that TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, can build the route that Nebraska’s former governor approved in 2013. The court ruling was split, with four of the court’s seven judges agreeing with a lower court that the 2012 law used to grant TransCanada that permission was unconstitutional. However, Nebraska requires a supermajority of at least five judges to strike down the law. “We believe that Nebraska citizens deserve a decision on the merits. But the supermajority requirement … coupled with the dissent’s refusal to reach the merits, means that the citizens cannot get a binding decision from this court,” the court wrote in the majority opinion.

    • Fannie says:

      I’ve been on the phone, and connecting to Bold Nebraska. Called Rep. Brad Ashford’s office to vote no. …………….here’s how it went: 266 – 152, they are wasting our time and our money.

      • dakinikat says:

        Brad’s an old friend of mine. He used to be a Republican, btw, like me. He helped me a lot when I was running for office. He was a friend of my campaign manager. Actually, you need to stop the DEMS in the Senate from voting for it. Otherwise, Obama’s veto won’t stand.

        • Fannie says:

          His office was very nice, he is a democrat thanks for correcting. I’m glad you worked with him. You might want to follow up with a call to him. I really like listening to Jane Kleeb on the Ed Show yesterday. Can’t Obama still veto it, if congress overrides it, then it crosses a national boundary, and it looks like they can’t get 2/3 votes of both houses. All most impossible, I think.

  4. leefeller says:

    Fyi: As a political junkie, one should be aware 30 Democrats supported the vote to dump the Frank Dodd, not what I want to see from Democrats?

    • dakinikat says:

      A lot of today’s Democrats would probably be republicans if the republicans hadn’t gone so bay shit crazy. I think a lot of them also got drug into voting for the cromnibus because it was the only way to fund government before this crazy congress took over too. I am an independent and i would love to have some alternative to crazy or craven.

  5. Fannie says:

    I noted in the above vote on Keystone XL, that 28 democrats are rolling with plan. Sen Joe Manchin, D. W. Va. is one who rolls with them. Why, because he is brought out by big Coal (Energy). I’d like to get on the phone and ask him why his State has the most people on disability Social Security. Something like 10% of the population, and most over 50 years of age. Would he care to comment on cutting 20% of social security disability income in his state (with the highest rates in the country), and what sort of impact he expects? Maybe he could focus on that, and get out of the Keystone Dig.

    I mean to say, Trans Canada is the sole owner of Keystone XL, and the people in Canada don’t want it in there country. How is it that eminent domain can be used for PRIVATE gain? How in the hell did this become legal in the USA? Does this have something to do with Corporations being people? It doesn’t benefit the general public, the President has said so. And I have seen pipelines in my lifetime, have had families who have worked them, and it’s only temporary. They bring in people from other states, and the don’t hire people who live in the community, then when the job is done they are gone to another state for another job. Meanwhile they are destroying the earth, and our much needed resources. End of my rant.

  6. Pat Johnson says:

    Don’t tell Boston Boomer, but Mitt Romney is seriously considering throwing his hat into the ring again in 2016,

    Some people just don’t seem to get the message.

    • dakinikat says:

      Yea. I saw that. Twitter is having a hey day with the second coming titles … Return of the Mitt, the mitster strikes back … All kinds of them!

    • bostonboomer says:

      I overheard you, Pat. Oh well, it might be humorous to see Mitt deal with Jeb other clowns one more time. And I’d love to see him debate Hillary. She would mop the floor with him.

      “Please proceed, Governor . . .”