Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Embrace the suck

Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about why Democrats fare so poorly in rural areas.  It is particularly perplexing because the policies of the Democratic Party are much more friendly and helpful to rural folk than those of the Republicans.

Pretty clearly rural voters are responding to something other than actual party values.  Likely it's perceived party values.  Or, what I see here in Idaho, the voters reject Democrats based solely on the party ID.  Idaho voters have so thoroughly internalized the idea that Democrat=Bad that they simply ignore everything else.  Really.  I believe the run of the mill Idaho voter wants to know nothing other that the party affiliation.

My perception is that these voters aren't voting Republican so much as they are voting anti-Democrat.  Years ago Democrats got linked to "radical environmentalism" and the demise of logging.  That really hurt Democrats in North Idaho.  Best thing that ever happened to Republicans in North Idaho was the Spotted Owl.  Republicans here still brand every Democrat as liberal, and it seems to work.  Reality be damned.

As a thought experiment I've asked myself, What policy position could an Idaho Democrat espouse that would actually earn votes?  I've asked other people this same question.  The answer always is, nothing. Idaho Dems can't move any farther to the right, really.  And even if they did, Idaho voters don't look at policies, they just look at D or R.

It's not policies that are the problem, it's the perception.  And that's where I see a ray of hope.  Dems are on their back right now, and everyone knows it.  Perhaps if Dems embrace that and announce that they've seen the light, Idaho voters might take a second look.  It could be that Idaho voters might be interested if Dems say "We've got big problems, we know it, and we're changing."

As the Army says, embrace the suck.  Perhaps we have a rare and fleeting opportunity to get people to listen.  I guess I'm saying right now it's more about messaging than actual policies.  The election sent the message that Dems need to change.  Let's announce that we got the message.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

White Nationalist in the White House

Bleh.  That election didn't go like I was hoping or expecting.  And as usual, any forecast I made was off the mark; when will I learn...?

Ah well, I'm trying to be philosophical, but it's going to take some time.

In the meantime, I'm watching the hue and cry over Trump hiring Stave Bannon as his strategic adviser.  Yes, his Brietbart news organization does appear to cater to white nationalists, and that seems wrong for a key administration adviser.  But, other than some alleged comments (reported by an ex-wife, so, you know, not exactly a disinterested reporter) about him not wanting his kids to be around Jewish people, I haven't seem much specifically attributed to him.

Yes, yes, yes, it's important to oppose Trump and drag him down and mess him up and move him sideways in order to stymie his forward progress (from my view, advancing to the rear), but I don't sign on to the slightly unhinged nature of it.  I'm not comfortable piling on the guy before we're clear that he's actually going to be a negative in that position.

And, is that really a negative?  I mean, if you're on the left it is hateful for a(n alleged) white nationalist to promote such policies at the highest level of our government.  But won't that just  hinder their effectiveness and hasten their demise?  If that view is truly out of favor in our country it will be exposed as such. And if it's not, well, .... well,  then we've got bigger problems than I thought.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The water he swims in

It is said that a fish is unaware of the water it swims in; it knows of, and can imagine, nothing else.  I attribute a similar lack of awareness to Idaho Supreme Court candidate Curt McKenzie.

In the October 4, 2016 edition of the Idaho Statesman, McKenzie has a column carping about the Statesman's editorial board's choice of Robyn Brody for the court opening. It's a fairly typical article extolling a candidate's qualifications for the position, but two points jumped out at me.

First, McKenzie refers to Brody's term as president of the Idaho Trial Lawyers Association, "a close tie indeed."  What's the point of this, you might wonder?  McKenzie and his winger ilk view ITLA as part and parcel of the "liberal trial lawyers" who support Democrats.  By linking Brody and ITLA, McKenzie is winking to readers who dislike "liberal trial lawyers" and is attempting to tar her with that brush.  Okay, fine.  I'm sure that's a reasonably widely held position among Idaho's right-wing voters.  But it's still just a guilt by association argument, irrelevant to Brody's, or McKenzie's, actual qualifications.

Even worse is this quote:
They did not mention the organizations supporting me in the race, including the Idaho Farm Bureau, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, the National Rifle Association, Idaho Chooses Life, the Association of General Contractors, the Idaho Association of Realtors, and the Professional Firefighters of Idaho. I am proud of such broad support from organizations rooted in Idaho agriculture, commerce, values and communities.
Here's the rub.  Every one of those organizations is staunchly right wing and always support Republicans over Democrats.  Okay, fine.  To believe that this is broad support, though, you have to be oblivious to the existence, to the values and communities, of non-winger Idaho organizations.  McKenzie thinks he's mainstream when he's so far right that he can't even see the mainstream from where he's at.  He's a fish that doesn't know it's swimming in water.

McKenzie hints that he'll "serve admirably and independently," and pledges to "fairly and impartially apply the Constitution and statues as written."  But what if a non-fish case comes before him?  I submit that he's not capable of being fair to non-fish, because he has no understanding of their existence, and therefore no empathy or perception of their circumstances.  Their values are not Idaho values, to McKenzie.

McKenzie would not be a Supreme Court justice for all Idahoans.

Monday, October 03, 2016

A new Icarus

I'm thinking of Donald Trump as a new Icarus.

Trump has toyed with running for President for several years, and of course this year really jumped right into the ring.  Early speculation was that he'd stay in until time for the required financial disclosures, then bail out.  But he didn't.  He filed and continued to march.

No one knows what he was thinking, but perhaps he was willing to "take a shot" at running, just for the hell of it, basically.  If he ran for a while and flamed out, well, at least he'd be more famous and enhance the value of his brand.

(Digression; I don't think in terms of "brand."  I know it's a real thing, and people do think that way, but not me.  So to write "enhance the value of his brand" feels odd to me, like having pebbles in your mouth.  Anyway...)

Trump may have considered it a win-win. Either he'd promote himself spectacularly, or he'd actually get the nomination.  If he got the nomination, then his self promotion would go to a whole new level - the best, incredible - and if not, he'd still have made himself more famous.  What's not to like?

But I suspect he failed to anticipate or appreciate the level of scrutiny he'd receive.  As a wealthy bully, Trump has gotten away with some specious behavior, but no one called him on it.  You've seen the type. Wealthy bully.  And you know how people act around celebrities, even minor ones, and rich folk.  Fawning.  Making allowances for outrageous behavior.  Enabling in order to bask in reflected glory.

So Trump isn't getting away with everything so much anymore.  And the truth is coming out.  And it's ugly.  And his brand is suffering.  His brand is now described by Huffington Post thusly:
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.
Can't be good.  So Trump's hubris caused him to fly too close to the sun, the bright hot light of fame and publicity, and it exposed him.   Watch now as he plunges, like Icarus, into the sea.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted about a bowl of skittles containing a few poison ones, asserting that you'd foolish to eat a handful from the bowl.  Too great a risk.  His point was that letting Syrian refugees into the US includes the risk that some bad ones will get in along with the good ones, and the bad ones will kill people, so just pass on the whole business.

Let me digress here a bit.  There are two ways to assess risk.   One is the probably that a bad event will occur.  That is, how likely are you to get a bad outcome if you take the risk.  The other is the severity of the outcome if the bad event occurs.  Thus, if you know there are bad skittles in the bowl, but they just taste bad and you can spit it out if you get one, you'll likely go ahead and have some skittles.  On the other hand, if you know that some of the skittles are so poisonous that one bite is deadly, you'll not eat any of them.

So Trump Jr. has been attacked for using this analogy, for suggesting that people could end up dead, the most severe outcome.  Some say the analogy's roots are in Nazi Germany.  Others relate it to white supremacy.  Jr. is mostly shrugging off the criticism.

I'm no Trump or Trump Jr. fan, but I think this criticism is overblown and off base.  It's the presidential campaign silly season, so supporters of one side will attack the other at any opportunity.  Happens all the time, and I think it undermines the credibility of the attacker.  If you make a weak, exaggerated attack on one issue, it just makes all your attacks look weak and silly, even the valid ones.

Muhammad Ali used a similar metaphor (or, maybe this is an analogy).  He said that not all white people are racist, but he was basically going to act like they are, just to be safe.  In his case, he likened white people to rattlesnakes.
There are many white people who mean right and in their hearts wanna do right. If 10,000 snakes were coming down that aisle now, and I had a door that I could shut, and in that 10,000, 1,000 meant right, 1,000 rattlesnakes didn’t want to bite me, I knew they were good... Should I let all these rattlesnakes come down, hoping that that thousand get together and form a shield? Or should I just close the door and stay safe?
I don't think that Ali was channeling Nazis or white supremacists.  I think was was just illustrating a point.  Just like Trump Jr.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

As I've always suspected

It's been obvious for years, but now we have some somewhat objective evidence of it.  I thought I noticed it long ago, because it just seems obvious. It became an almost unavoidable conclusion, a sad, disheartening, depressing conclusion, when Donna Jones beat Jackie Groves Twilegar for State Controller in 2006.

The State Controller's duties are
The state controller is the chief fiscal officer of the state of Idaho, responsible for:
  • Maintaining all accounting and financial records
  • Paying all the state’s bills and employees
  • Preparing the state’s annual financial report
  • Operating the state’s Computer Service Center
In that race, the women had vastly different qualifications.  Jones was a HSG, and Twilegar had an MBA.  Plus
Jones is a former state legislator, a businesswoman, and current director of the Idaho Real Estate Commission. Twilegar is a financial manager who’s worked in corporate finance, banking, real estate and investments.
In other words, Twilegar was an accomplished professional woman from a financial background, and Jones was a political hack whose chief qualification was serving as an Idaho legislator.  So, why did Jones win that election?

Which brings me to this.  A recent survey shows Crapo, Simpson and Labrador all with comfortable leads going into this year's election.  But the nonpartisan Idaho Supreme Court election between Robin Brody and Curt McKenzie (a far-right Republican legislator) is close with 61% (!) not knowing who they will vote for.  What explains this?

Well, according to the Idaho Politics Weekly, it's this:
And without the benefit of having an “R” or a “D” next to their names, Idahoans don’t have much guidance on who to vote for here.
Yup.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Trump's easiest money yet

I heard a radio report today that Trump's campaign raised around $90 million in August.  I'm just sure that type of money has got Trump thinking. Trump seems to be pretty much a grifter, willing to do about anything for a buck.  You've heard the stories; Trump steaks, Trump Air, Trump Ice Spring Water, and on and on.

You may have also heard about when Spy Magazine sent ever-smaller checks to several notable people.  I can't remember the details, but they sent small checks to see who would cash them, then followed up with another, smaller check, and another.  As I heard it, the last one, for 13 cents, was chased only by Trump, just as he'd cashed all the others.  In other words, no amount of money is too small for him go after.

So you know that $90 mil attracted his attention.  At $90 mil a month, that's a billion a year.  Even for a billionaire (and we're not sure Trump actually is one) that's real money.  I'd bet he's thinking about how to get on that train.

We know he's already had his campaign pay his businesses pretty big money to host campaign events.
And it shows in his latest campaign finance report, filed Monday: Trump-linked businesses account for 17% of all campaign expenses to date. He's paid almost $11 million to Trump organizations since launching his campaign a year ago.
 Paying his own businesses is a good way to skim some bucks off the donations.  But you know he wants more.  I wonder how he'll do it?  Maybe he'll let his "loans" to his campaign ride for a while, then repay them at some silly-high interest rate.  Maybe he'll sell assets to his campaign at some inflated rate, then buy them back at fire-sale prices.

Maybe if he loses, and please please please let him lose, he'll run again next time and just set things up from the get-go to maximize his grifting opportunities. Gingrich can show him how.  Set up a super pac and pay himself a ridiculous salary, might work.  I'm sure he'll think of something.

Having all. that. money. just RIGHT THERE has got to be making him crazy.  Maybe that's why he's so inarticulate, he's stupefied by all. that. money. that people are just giving him.  Giving him! He'll never be the same.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Colin Kaepernick

Kaepernick is making news these days by refusing to stand for the national anthem. At first the faux patriots sprayed spittle all over claiming he's not a patriot, or real American, or is dissing the troops, or whatever.  Before long, veterans and others pointed out that American values, for which troops are willing to fight to the death, include free speech. In fact, that is one of the premiere American values.  And free speech sometimes means saying uncomfortable things.

Okay. Right.

But my problem with Kaepernick is that 'Fro.  Dude!  How do you get a helmet over that?  It's just not working for you.  Two beady eyes in a halo of brown hair.  Ha!  How's that for free speech?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Public sector jobs are second class jobs

Governor Otter released a letter on Sept. 1 “celebrating Idaho’s private-sector job growth.”   He mentioned how important jobs are, but made a distinction between private and public sector jobs, the former being better than the latter.  In fact, “growing the number of government jobs in society generally is not considered real progress” according to the Governor.  That job creation isn't progress.

Otter is proud that in his term as governor, “job growth in Idaho’s State government has been consistently outpaced by private employment growth,” and that “Idaho businesses began growing jobs at rates from two to four times that of the State.”  

Otter is a conservative Republican, and these results, being in line with his philosophy, make him proud.  But I submit that his philosophy is out of whack, and I also quibble with some of the points he makes in the letter.

He says “Our statewide unemployment rate now is 3.8 percent, down sharply from 9.7 percent in June and July 2009.”  Yep.  So much for that jobs-killing Obama agenda, eh?

I don’t think that creating a bunch of low-paying minimum wage jobs is much to brag about, especially when Idaho ranks at the bottom of the nationwide wage scale. 

The Governor says that government’s role is to focus on improving the underlying conditions for private-sector economic growth.  Read another way, that paragraph (not fully quoted here) is just saying that government works are takers, others are makers.  Which isn’t analysis, it’s sloganeering.

Otter notes that “we need more and better-educated, better-trained people,” thereby acknowledging the importance of teachers, i.e., government employees (mostly).  He also lauds the recently enacted Tax Reimbursement Incentive.  Well, yes, very nice.  But it’s a government policy (as he notes) and it’s administered by government employees.  It wouldn’t work without government help.

But mostly I disagree with the idea that a government job does not have the value of a private sector job.  A job is a job; public employees spend money to buy stuff just like everyone else, and that helps the economy.  Otter dismisses public jobs because “government is the ultimate service industry.”  Not sure why service industry jobs are so puerile, especially when Idaho is mostly creating service industry jobs like call centers.  Low paying public-sector service industry jobs.


Robust public investment spurs an economy.  If the state began constructing roads and bridges and schools, “government” jobs will be created, if you define “government jobs” as coming from government spending.  Investing in higher education will pay off, though on a more long-term scale.

Otter is consistent with his philosophy.  But I think his philosophy is the reason Idaho is the minimum wage state.  If you only think as far as Reagan’s “government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem,” and you don’t care that people can’t get a job with a livable wage, then Idaho is just fine.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Invasive species

A legislative interim committee is meeting today; the Invasive Species Working Group.   Reporters at the scene say that the Republican members of the working group are focused mostly on what to do about the yuuuge invading orange barnacle that has attached itself to the GOP and is pulling it below the waves.

Image result for barnacles on skin

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kristen Armstrong Park. Say what?

Boise has renamed its Municipal Park to Kristen Armstrong Municipal Park.  Color me unimpressed.

Ms. Armstrong's athletic achievements are impressive, third Olympic Gold Medal and all, but this just feels like pandering, or breathless celebrity worship, or something.  Perhaps a kind of pathetic attempt to bask in reflected glory.  "Yay, Boise has someone who did something and got a little famous!"

Its fine to honor her and her outstanding achievement.  Give her another key to the city, or designate some bicycle trail or road route in her name, something related to her success.  Some bicycle-y thing.

Congratulations Ms. Armstrong, you have a world class bicycle-related accomplishment. Maybe I'm asking too much, but naming a park after someone should honor some PUBLIC good, not just a personal best.  Someone who, say, helped advance the cause of civil rights, or advocated for the homeless; someone who helped lots of people, or created something that lots of people benefit from or enjoy.  

The article refers to a "ribbon of jewels,' parks named after prominent women, which is another way of saying that they were named after the women because of a land or money donation.  Julia Davis, Anne Morrison, and Kathryn Albertson, all had parks named for them not so much as for their personal achievements, but rather because of financial interests. So Kristen Armstrong on this list is an outlier.

Ms. Armstrong has earned and deserves her praise.  But not quite like this.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Update

Its been a year since my last post, 13 months, actually, but I haven't given up.  What with Facebook and Twitter (which I'm not really on), blogging has receded as a priority.  Plus, as a state employee, the political nature of this blog has always been a risk, since my political views are not in sync with most of Idaho, especially it's political leadership.

So I have to be careful in what I say, and more importantly, that I don't do any blogging during work time.  But my evenings and weekends are pretty busy, and yada yada yada excuse excuse excuse.  Anyway, I obviously haven't been blogging much.

And I probably won't be, much, for a while.  But the day is coming when I will be more free to post, so I'm going to keep this open.  Plus I use it because I follow the links I have on the right side.

So, check in once in a while, and one of these days, you'll see that things have picked up here.  Probably.  Maybe.  I hope so.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Don't get fooled again

I was talking with a friend the other day, and he was telling me that a Democratic candidate he supports intends to make education a central issue in the up coming campaign, possibly the key or central issue.  I can see the thinking.  Luna laws where shot down, indicating much support for education in Idaho.  The recent legislative session restored education spending a little, but not really all that much, and seemed to be a back seat to rainy day savings and ideological issues (Kill the Wolves!).  It would look like Idahoans care more about education than the political leaders.

All the above is correct, but running on education as an issue by itself is a loser for Democrats.  When has that not been a or the key issue for Dems?  Running on it yet again is nothing new or exciting.  Besides, look how well that's worked for Dems in Idaho.

The problem is two fold.  Republicans also claim to support education. Have you ever heard any Rep say "Education is stoopid and I don't support it?"  Of course not.  The Reps have framed it as "I love education, and we're spending all we can afford right now."  They've successfully framed is as a fiscal issue, and Idahoans are congenitally predisposed to think the same way.

The second part is that Dems are so closely associated with the teachers union.  That's just undeniable.  And again, Reps have successfully framed it as supporting spending more money on education is just pandering to the teachers union.

It's almost like jujitsu.  As soon as a Dem says s/he supports education, it plugs into the Rep framing and is heard as "I want to spend more money" and "I want to pander to the teachers union."

So, it's a loser issue for Dems, unless it's repackaged to avoid the Rep frames.  Our state economy sucks, which is also undeniable.  Rock bottom, or near it, in wages, % working minimum wage jobs, all that.  I think that if Dems will talk about those issues, and hang them around Reps necks (after all, they've been in total control since forever), they have an opening.  And part of that can be that we have to offer employers a more highly skilled and educated workforce.  The current workforce attracts the crappy low wages jobs we've got here.  If more skilled workers were available, the state would be more attractive to an employer needing those skilled workers, and such jobs pay better.

Don't play into the Republican framing and "support education."  Instead, support offering employers a highly skilled workforce.  That sounds much better the Republican ears.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More of this, please

Lynn Luker is busy in the legislature these days.  Fresh off a really stupid bill that would allow people to discriminate against, well, pretty much anyone, so long as they have a heart-felt belief or religious conviction or some such silliness motivating them, Luker has now demonstrated that he still has some common sense left.

He's introduced a bill to reduce various misdemeanors to infractions, including land use and building code violations.  Yay, Lynn.  This seems like common-sense conservatism; less government intrusion, fewer crimes, less input into the criminal justice system.  I like it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Awk

I've written about my inability to understand wingers, and what/how they think, and what really motivates them.  As I continue to ponder, I think it could be that I'm giving them too much credit.  For thinking.  Because it might just be that they aren't really thinking the thing through, they're just echoing back what they've heard around them.  This is not limited only to right wingers, leftys succumb to it too, but it does seem much more prevalent among the right wingers.  Maybe because there are so many here in Idaho.  But I digress.

Mike Moyle is demonstrating this tendency with this statement, in response to a proposal to do away with a grocery tax credit:

"You're picking winners and losers,” said Moyle, R-Star.

Gawd how I hate that phrase.  No thought, just slap a label on something you don't like, something that you've hear in your winger echo chamber.  Back in 2007 Moyle "called Otter's original means-adjusted proposal “class warfare.”  Yet another trite phrase, though one favored by both sides of the aisle.

C'mon on, think, Moyle.  Get past Rushbo's diatribes and think for yourself.  You're not a parrot.    "Winners and losers."  Awk.   "Winners and losers."  Awk.   "Winners and losers."  Awk. "Winners and losers."  Awk.  Nice analysis there, Mike.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Hyperbole

Okay, I'm guilty of it.  I admit it.  I get carried away.  Saying "Republicans hate state workers" was an over the top generalization.  Such statements don't do much for my credibility.  I usually try to avoid them, but sometimes I get worked up, and sometimes it's just fun to unload.  So there's that.

OTOH, it does reveal my frustration and inability to understand the right-wing mindset.  I truly cannot fathom what they're thinking much of the time.   Part of it is I fail to run the politician's acts through the politics filter, and just assume that what they're doing or saying is sincere.  So that's on me.  Being a politician requires one to do and say stuff that's, well, politically expedient.  That's just part of the whole politics deal.  I get it.

But so many of the choices they make, of the policies they advocate, and of the priorities they set seem so wrong.  Not just wrong because I don't agree, but wrong as an absolute.

Example; those who say expanding Medicaid is bad.  For Idaho, it's (to me) an obvious good.  Poor, sick and suffering people will get some relief.  Children will be helped.  Counties will have a burdensome expense lifted.  Jobs will be created.  Much money will be pumped into Idaho's anemic economy.  Where's the harm?

"Well, we can't trust the federal government to continue to fund it as they say."  Okay; so if they cut back funding, then cut back on Medicaid.  But until they do, help the folks out.

I think it is an example of just knee-jerk reaction to anything proposed by Obama and/or Democrats.  To me, it is an example saying that right-wingers don't care about people, or good policy, or good government, they just want to oppose.  Decades of being the opposition party and lately injected with the steroids of hate radio, like Limbaugh, have led them to just oppose.  Oppose for the sake of opposing.  Obama care is a Republican plan.  We all know that.  But Republicans now oppose it, because Obama.  They seem to think that they can win power simply by stopping any Democratic progress.

And there's the rub.  I actually care about creating a better community, and helping people, even if it helps Republicans.  I don't think Republicans feel that way, if it is a Democratic initiative.  So that leads to my frustration, I guess.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Political courage

Is often in short supply, and this year is no exception.  Gov Otter came into office in, what, 2006 or so, saying that he wanted to run government more like business.  So part of that was to get state employee compensation in line with the private sector.  To his credit, he proposed a decent raise for state employees, and the got a raise that year.  However, he also went along with increases in what employees had to pay for health insurance, so the net raise was there, but small.

Well, the economy tanked and the legislature, with the Gov's acquiescence, stopped all raises.  Since then, 6 years, state employees have received one small raise.  The various oracles of compensation all agree that state pay is way behind the private sector, and so is overall compensation.  That is, even factoring in benefits, state workers are under compensated.

Now comes 2014, and the economy is on the mend, and state revenues are ticking up.  But Gov Otter recommends no pay raise.  Why?  Well, I think it's that he has a primary opponent.  Republicans hate state employees, for the most part.  Worthless, lazy and overpaid, that's how Republicans view state workers.  Of course; it has to be that way.  When you hate government, it's value to you is zero or negative, and therefore any government employee's work is valueless or a drag, and therefore anything you pay them is too much.

You'd think that they'd want workers to be lazy, so they don't actively f things up, since everything they do is bad.  But viewing someone as lazy is a nice way to get your hate on, and that's too tempting to pass up, even if it makes no logical sense.

So, it would be risky for Otter to propose pay raises, given his challenge from the right.  So he didn't.  Lack of courage, in that instance.

I'll credit him with some spine for letting the Dept. of Correction take over the private prison (some, not a lot, not that tough a call), and for allowing Idaho to set up its own health care exchange.  That did take some courage, and is probably what led to his primary opponent.  I'm just afraid he's learned from that and will take no risky stands.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The failed experiment

That is Republican leadership in Idaho. Gov Otter has just conceded that private ownership of prisons doesn't work. Government can actually do something well, or at least better.

What is the price for this lesson? Millions of dollars and untold human suffering and misery. We just have to face facts. Other than the land, which we just happen to be on by happenstance, and decent weather, Idaho is not a nice place to live. We have made it that way by choice.

Really weird choices. We're winning the race to the bottom. That's our goal and we're achieving it.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Dubious distinction, and who gets credit for it.

From Betsy Russell:
Idaho has the worst wages in the nation. The Famous Potatoes state ranks 50th for average annual wage, per-capita income, and for wage increases since 2007. It also has the greatest percentage of minimum-wage workers in America. After hearing those figures Thursday as they reviewed Idaho’s economic outlook, state legislative leaders said it’s time to figure out how to reverse that “dubious distinction” for the state.
“I don’t think anybody’s proud of that No. 1,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. He quizzed the state’s new Labor director, Ken Edmunds, about why the state ranks so poorly. “We need to understand, I think, as a state this phenomenon here, so that we can address this as we shape policy to improve these numbers,” Bedke said; 
 From the Statesman.  
Bedke said he’s concerned that Fulcher’s presence would compromise the effectiveness of the cooperation between Republicans, who have run the Legislature since 1961 and the held the governorship since 1995.
If that doesn't make a voter wonder if keeping Republicans in power is good for the state, then I suppose nothing will. R's have controlled the legislature for 50 years, and the Gov's office for the last 18.  And Idaho is the shitty low wage state.

Until the R's can escape from the "no taxes, ever, for any reason" mentality and start to invest in the state, this is where we'll be.

And there was this:
Some interesting stats from Bob Fick of the Idaho Department of Labor, who’s presenting to lawmakers this afternoon: Idaho saw a big jump in its 55-and-older population from 2010 to 2012, a 59.3 percent increase, compared to a national increase for that age group of 37.9 percent. The percentage of the state’s population that’s 55 and older went up from 19.5 percent in 1990 to 25.3 percent in 2012. At the same time, the state is starting to see some out-migration of younger residents, Fick reported.
So, young adults can't get a decent job here, and are leaving for greener pasture in other states. Idaho will be left with an old population in need of medical care.  Good thing Idaho has refused to expand Medicaid.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Food stamps and poor choices

I was standing in line at WinCo yesterday, and the guy ahead of me was buying some roasted chicken, and some DVDs.  He was working out with the checker to pay for the chicken with his EBT, card, i.e., food stamps, and to pay cash for the DVDs.  He bought 4 movies, for about $16.

  I only saw a couple of the titles, but I didn't recognize them, meaning that they were pretty low budget releases.  Which also told me that the guy would watch pretty much anything.

My first though was, jeez, dude, if you need economic help, perhaps buying DVDs is not your best choice.   I thought, you know, you could go to the library and probably find lots of movies you'd watch, for free.  But then I thought, well, if he's out of work and at home, maybe he'll watch each movie several times, and pass the time a bit.  Even poor people need entertainment, maybe even more than more well off folks, since a poor life can be harsh, and distraction brings relief.

So, maybe that was a rational economic decision.  But then I remembered a saying a fellow I used to work with would say when he'd see a poor person buying cigarettes, or something:  "Poor people have poor ways."  Although that be taken two ways, I always thought he meant that making sub-optimal choices tended to help keep poor people poor.  It's not a good idea to smoke, especially when you're struggling to get by anyway and can't really afford the $5 (or whatever it is) a pack a day.  That's $150 a month, which would really help a poor person.

Anyway, I didn't begrudge the guy the food stamps (I know, SNAP), and I have no deep thoughts on the subject.  Other than, I'm pretty sure this anecdote is NOT evidence of the failure of the SNAP program.