Friday, April 22, 2016

Last Call For Dispatches From Bevinstan

It's been a busy week for Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, a week after signing his austerity budget into law that cuts nearly five percent from state spending across the board.  First, he's decided to use his power as governor to go after his political enemies by demanding a corruption investigation into previous Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, and Beshear's son and current KY Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Kentucky’s Republican governor on Tuesday ordered an investigation into what he described as wrongdoing under his Democratic predecessor, charging that state employees were coerced into contributing to political campaigns and that a contract was improperly steered to a politically connected company. 
Gov. Matt Bevin’s allegation of “greed and oftentimes corruption” escalates the feud between the new governor, who took office in December, and the Beshear family: former Gov. Steven L. Beshear and his son Andy, the state attorney general. On April 11, Andy Beshear sued Mr. Bevin, saying the governor acted illegally in cutting higher education spending without approval by the Legislature. Steven Beshear is leading a public-relations campaign against his successor’s moves to roll back the state’s expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. 
A former state official close to the Beshears, Timothy M. Longmeyer, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal bribery charge, a case Mr. Bevin referred to in calling for a new investigation. As a member of Steve Beshear’s cabinet, Mr. Longmeyer steered contracts related to the health plan for state employees to a company that paid him kickbacks. Mr. Longmeyer briefly served this year as a deputy attorney general, under Andy Beshear, before resigning. 
In a brief statement, Mr. Bevin said that in his months in office, his administration had found evidence that state workers were forced to contribute last year to the campaigns of Andy Beshear and Jack Conway, the previous attorney general, who was Mr. Bevin’s Democratic opponent in the race for governor. And he charged that the state had awarded a $3 million no-bid contract to a company with ties to Steve Beshear’s administration.

Some pretty hefty allegations there.  Bevin of course refuses to go to the existing state Ethics Commission, but is instead hiring his own "independent investigative team" to go after the Beshears.

Meanwhile, Bevin's "pension reforms" start with the firing of the state's top pension board official and replacing him with a Bevin donor who wants to dismantle the entire state pension fund.

Thomas K. Elliott, a senior vice president at Old National Bank in Louisville, was reappointed last year by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to a four-year term. However, Bevin, a Republican, issued an executive order citing a state law that suggests that a governor can revoke any gubernatorial appointment for any reason at any time, exempting university boards, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the state Board of Education.

Meet Elliott's replacement, William F. Smith, who wrote this gem of an article last year, calling the pension system a "Ponzi scheme" and ranting that promised pension payments to state employees cannot be legally enforced:

Beshear must recognize that a task force, audit or blue ribbon panel will not produce the solution to this pension crisis. This pension crisis will not be resolved by actuaries, attorneys or pension consultants, who will take our money and provide little or nothing in return. 
This crisis is above the legislature, the attorney general, and the state auditor. It is beyond the control of the Chamber of Commerce, the KLC, KACO, and even KFC, with all due respect to Colonel Sanders. This $48 billion pension crisis is prima facie evidence of a crime that will require immediate executive action by a governor willing to cross party lines and oppose political allies to save the state from a financial disaster created entirely by our own public officials. 
It should be clear to the governor that the KRS benefit formula is actuarially unsound and does not match the funding mechanism. It should be clear to the governor that beneficiaries are allowed to manipulate pension benefits beyond the parameters established by KRS actuaries. 
It should be clear to everyone that the system is underfunded because pension benefits were allowed to exceed the capacity of the system to generate revenue, and not because funding from taxpayers has been inadequate. The KRS policies that created these deficits are actuarially unsound by design, invalidating the entire KRS system and potentially making KRS executives and trustees, and state executives and legislators liable for the damages to the state created by the $48 billion deficit.

And this guy is now in charge of the same pension system he wants to obliterate, with payments to tens of thousands of state employees in the balance.

Welcome to Bevinstan.

Compassionate Conservatism In Action

Few states have been hammered by the opioid epidemic like Maine, and it should come as no surprise that a unanimously passed bipartisan bill that aims to save lives by increasing access to anti-overdose medication was vetoed by GOP Gov. Paul LePage, who figures the state is just better off if smack addicts die.

Maine already allows family members of addicts to receive prescriptions for naloxone hydrochloride – also commonly known by the brand name Narcan – which quickly counteracts the potentially deadly effects of an opiate overdose. The bill, L.D. 1547, aims to make the antidote even more readily available by allowing a pharmacist to dispense naloxone without a prescription to individuals “at risk of experiencing an opioid-related drug overdose” or to a friend or family member of someone at risk. 
The legislation would also allow police and fire departments to obtain a supply of naloxone and provides immunity to pharmacists or health care professionals who dispense the antidote when “acting in good faith and with reasonable care.” 
But in his veto letter sent to lawmakers on Wednesday, LePage said the bill would allow pharmacists “to dispense naloxone to practically anyone who asks for it.” 
Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage wrote, repeating a contention that has caused controversy before. “Creating a situation where an addict has a heroin needle in one hand and a shot of naloxone in the other produces a sense of normalcy and security around heroin use that serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.” 
Pharmacy chains such as Rite Aid and CVS already dispense naloxone without a prescription in other states. About 30 states allow sales of the drug without a prescription. 
CVS requested the bill in Maine after receiving a letter from U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine asking the chain to expand the availability of the antidote. The bill got support from both law enforcement and health organizations during the legislative hearing.

We already know LePage is an unapologetic racist asshole who blames African-Americans for Maine's drug problem anyway even though the state's population is 95% white and less than 1.5% black, so it should come as no surprise that LePage seems to think the state's addicts are all black thugs or something.

Of course he was going to veto the bill.

However I'm betting that because the bill passed the state House and Senate easily, LePage's veto is going to bite the dust.

We'll find out.starting in May.

Electable, Deflectable, Respectable

Matt Yglesias looks at the "who is more electable" argument among the Democrats and comes up with much the same analysis as myself and several commenters: Bernie is more likable as a person, but his refusal to moderate his positions for the general more than eliminates that advantage over Clinton, the example Yglesias uses is carbon taxes.

According to Harvard political scientist Stephen Ansolabehere's meta-analysis of 25 separate surveys
  • 75 to 80 percent of Americans favor EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions
  • 45 to 55 percent favor cap and trade
  • 25 to 45 percent favor a carbon tax 
That's why Clinton won't embrace a carbon tax. She wants to win in November
EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is almost certainly not the optimal policy for combatting climate change. But it is popular and political defensible, as well as being something a Democratic president can do without majority support in congress. But despite its popularity, EPA regulatory authority has been under relentless attack from congressional Republicans and conservative judges and all the GOP candidates for president have promised to roll it back. 
Politics is full of tradeoffs, but to Clinton (like Barack Obama before her) there actually is no tradeoff here. The right thing to do if you care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to maximize the Democratic Party's odds of controlling the White House in order to deploy EPA regulatory levers. Taking an unpopular climate-related stance in pursuit of a policy goal that wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell in congress is pointless and counterproductive.

Which is an excellent point, and that brings us to why Clinton is more electable in the general than Sanders:

If it were just carbon taxes, Sander's issue positions probably wouldn't be enough to outweigh his poll numbers in the eyes of most political insiders. 
But Sanders — quite proudly and openly — takes these kind of stances on a wide range of issues. He markets himself in the primary, accurately, as the bolder, more politically courageous candidate. 
  • While Clinton has clearly tried to signal sympathy with death penalty opponents and their concern about racial bias, Sanders outright calls for an end to executions.
  • While Clinton tries to reassure fracking opponents that she understands the need for tight regulations, but she also wants communities that like fracking to know she won't stand in the way of their economic development — while Sanders promises a blanket ban.
  • Hillary Clinton proposes only relatively modest, overwhelmingly popular tweaks to the tax code while Sanders proposes to soak the rich to a much greater extent while also asking more of the middle class.
  • Hillary Clinton hews to the stale, politically safe orthodoxy on Israel policy while Sanders offers a breathe of fresh air.
  • Sanders is even willing to promise to let people who've already been deported from the United States back into the country if they have family living here.
On all of these topics you don't need to question Sanders on the substance to see that it's not a mystery why national Democrats rarely take these stances. They are not popular. Sometimes in life you have to do the right thing, whether it's popular or not. But if you want to understand why the Democratic Party establishment is so skeptical of Sanders' electability despite his strong current poll numbers this is why — Bernie Sanders says he is the candidate who is willing to take tough stands for progressive causes, and the establishment fears he is telling the truth.

And I respect Sanders for taking these positions.  But they are useless if he loses, best case is that Clinton adopts some of the more feasible positions, worst case Sanders hurts Clinton so badly that Trump or Cruz wins and sets all of these positions back a couple decades.

Politics aren't pretty.

The counter-argument is that Trump/Cruz are themselves so unelectable that Sanders can win and win easily.  The polls are starting to show that he would win, but that would arguably leave a Republican Congress in charge of at least the House and that Clinton's skill and negotiations would get through the things that could get passed, like Obama has done.

Granted, that hasn't been as much as I'd like, but that's not Obama's fault, nor would it be Clinton's fault or Sanders's fault in 2017 with a GOP House. (It would be ours for the GOP House thing.)

It's a pretty solid argument for pragmatism for either side, and of course I would vote for either over any Republican.


Related Posts with Thumbnails