Thursday, August 22, 2013

Where is Randy? (Medicaid Expansion)

MONROE, MI (Aug 21, 2013) – A small group of concerned voters gathered outside the doors of the Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville field office on South Monroe Street but Randy was not there. That didn’t surprise anyone … Randy is never there.

Looking for Senator Randy Richardiville at his Monroe field office

Senator Richardville and other Senate Republicans have been hiding from their constituents all summer. They know that they should have passed House Bill 4371 before they went on summer vacation, but they don’t care.

Republicans are pretending that there are some little changes being made to the language that will in some way improve the bill. Here is the problem; Randy can’t move the consensus bill to the floor of the Senate without offending a handful of Tea Party Republicans.

That is why Senator Randy Richardville was award a Tea Party Crackpot Award; he simply lacks the ability to tell certain crackpots in his own party that they cannot hold up legislation that has the support of the Governor, bipartisan support in the State House, and the support of small businesses and healthcare providers across the state.

They may not be the true majority of Republicans in the Senate (or maybe they are), but the Senate Majority Leader is marching to the beat of their drum and has earned a Tea Part Crackpot Award for doing so.

Richardville told Monroe News that he was “not on vacation” (we might be annoying him with our relentless “Take a Vote, Not a Vacation!” message?).  He indicated that he was going to Lansing to work on House Bill 4714 (not that it needs any work) and that he expects a vote on the bill next week.

The State Senate will be back from its summer vacation on Tuesday August 27th and session is scheduled to begin at noon. Can we expect this to be done by 1:00 PM? After all, they have been working on it since March 23rd, 2010 when President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and brought it into effect and the Medicaid expansion provisions haven’t exactly been a mystery.

Tea Party Crackpot Award
There is one question that remains unanswered, “Will Randy be stopping by his field office any time soon to pick up his much deserved Tea Party Crackpot Award?” I don’t think I have ever seen a light on in the field office.

Click here to follow the progress of House Bill 4714 (2013) on the Michigan Legislative Website.

Click here to view "Facts About Medicaid Expansion: Improving Care, Saving Money" (PDF requires Adobe Reader to view).

Click here to let Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville know how important Medicaid Expansion is to you (or to congratulate him on winning the Tea party Crackpot Award).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Progressive Thinking (e.g. Wages)

Republicans drive me crazy! They have no idea what it means to be socially, politically and economically “progressive”.

Democrats drive me crazy! They have no idea what it means to be socially, politically and economically “progressive”.
Chicago Raise the Minimum Wage Rally (Think Progress)

Wages … all Republicans, and most Democrats, regard a rise in the minimum wage to $10 per hour as “progressive”. This is insane!

I came of age in 1979. Minimum wage was $2.90 per hour in 1979[1] and it sucked to earn minimum wage. If you earned $2.90 per hour in 1979, it would have had $9.33 in buying power in 2013.[2]

There is nothing “progressive” about wages that barely keep pace with inflation.

Let’s talk progressive!

The private sector employed 114,186 thousand people in July 2013; they worked an average of 34.4 hours per week and were paid an average of $824.91 per week. In the same period, 11,200 thousand people were officially listed as unemployed.[3]

Let’s do some math!

Imagine a policy with the target of employing people for 30 hours per week. If the total number of hours worked by private sector employees was divided by 30, it could employ all of the 114,186 thousand people that are currently employed plus all of the 11,200 thousand people who are officially listed as unemployed.

The private sector spends $94.2 billion per week on wages[4] and could pay 125.4 million people[5] working an average of 30 hours per week an average hourly rate of $25 per hour or $750 per week (that is $39,000 per year)[6].

Of course every employee would not work exactly the same number of hours or get exactly the same rate of pay … America isn’t ready for that. Some employees will want to work fewer than 30 hours, but employees should not normally work more than 32 to 35 hours per week and the maximum work week should be 40 hours.

One problem with the current policy is that it encourages workers to seek additional hours instead of better hourly rates. A policy that would discourage employers from asking employees to work additional hours AND would discourage employees from seeking additional hours would be one that punishes the employer without rewarding the employee.

Such a policy would fine employers 25% of the employee’s wages above 32 hours per week and 50% of the employee’s wages above 35 hours per week. The money collected from employers in the form of fines could be spent to offset the cost of benefits for unemployed or underemployed people.

Employing someone more than 40 hours per week would be a crime and the fine would be 100% of the employee’s wages over 40 hours and the possibility of jail time for employers depending on the circumstances. 

Now that’s “progressive”!

Most full time employees would work between 30 and 32 hours per week and earn between $20 and 25 per hour with annual pay ranges between $31,200 and $41,600 per year.

You might need some other policies to help people live on this new wage range like national single payer health insurance paid for from the general fund and tuition-free higher education.

You could also implement something called a guaranteed minimum weekly wages for households which would end the need for assistance to families with children, unemployment, disability and retirement.

Is this all a bit too simplistic? What did you expect in a few paragraphs? Economics is not a science for people who think that all of problems of world can be solved by memorizing John 3:16 and reciting it seven times a day.

The point of this article is that Republicans and Democrats drive me crazy! They have no idea what it means to be socially, politically and economically “progressive”.

Real progressives don’t think that raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour is “progressive”.

[1] Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD), History of Federal Minimum Wage Rates Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1938 – 2009, extracted from 08/18.2013.
[2] Source: US Inflation Calculator, extracted from 08/18/2013.
[3] Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, extracted from 08/18/2013.
[4] 114,186,000 employed people x $824.91 per week = $94,193,173,260 per week
[5] 114,186,000 employed people + 11,200,000 unemployed people = 125,386,000 people
[6] $25 per hour x 30 hours x 125,386,000 people = $94,039,500,000 per week

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bob Dutko Gets Bullied by Democrats

Bob Dutko describes himself as “a leading voice today in the fearless defense of Christian truth, using logic, reason, science, history and factual evidence to disarm the critics and equip believers.”

To be the “truth” and account must be in “conformity with fact or reality”. Bob Dutko’s account of events at the Monroe County Fair on Saturday, August 3rd, 2013 at about 11:00 AM fails to meet the basic definition of what truth is.

I stood in front of the Monroe County Democratic Party tent with fellow Democrat Kevin Shopshire. I said to him that I was once a Christian, that I still had many respected friends who were Christians and I could not regard the people working in the Citizens for Traditional Values tent as Christians without loosing respect for myself and my friends.

Volunteers in the Traditional Values tent were lying; they were telling people that tax dollars are being spent to pay or will be spent to pay for abortions. I suggested that nobody in the Traditional Values tent knew anyone or knew of anyone who had an abortion that was paid for with tax dollars. They were telling people this to get signatures on a petition that was being circulated from their tent.

Over the course of the week I had observed volunteers routinely calling out to passers by and asking them to come into the tent and sign the petition. This is a practice called “carnival barking” and merchants and non-profits at the fair are prohibited from doing it as part of their rental agreement.

Earlier in the week, the volunteers from the Traditional Values tent had been taking their petition to the crowd, a practice also prohibited. Someone must have complained because they stopped doing that. Each merchant or non-profit is required to keep their activity within the space they rent and prohibited from taking it to the other places on the fairgrounds.

I was at least 15 feet from the Traditional Values tent and standing in the entrance of the Democratic Party tent when I spoke with Kevin and indicated that they were lying about taxes being spent on abortions but I must have been overheard by the woman who was volunteering at the Traditional Values. It wasn’t long afterward that she left her tent and visited the entrance to ours.

The woman confronted Kevin and wanted to know why we said that she was lying. Kevin made an effort to explain to her that tax dollars were not being spent on abortions and that the petition she was circulating was a sham designed to stir people up. She replied, “But Obamacare …”

The tone of the woman was confrontational from the first and Kevin’s tone matched hers. The conversation was short and Kevin ended it by turning his back on her and walked to the back of the Democratic Party tent. She did not follow; she turned and went back to the Traditional Values tent.

In Bob Dutko’s account, he indicated that Kevin went to the Family Values tent and provoked the volunteer there, but the truth is just the opposite.

Bob Dutko arrived at the Traditional Values tent not long after the unfortunate conversation. Dutko has helped staff the tent for several years now. He periodically visits the Democratic Party tent pretending to be interested in something we have in our tent and striking up conversation. His ultimate goal is to bring his message into our tent, something that is prohibited by the fairground rules.

I engaged Dutko in these conversations in the Democratic Party tent multiple times in the past three years that I have worked there. Each time I have managed to keep the conversation civil and agreed to disagree. It isn’t easy to do that with Dutko because he is … slippery. I might choose other words like smarmy, evasive, deceptive, arrogant, or self-righteous, but let’s just stick with slippery for the moment.

Bob Dutko came into the Democratic Party tent and spoke with Kevin Shopshire; he asked Kevin if he would come over to the Traditional Values tent and sign the petition. Kevin replied, “I will not.”

Dutko was already in the wrong. He was prohibited by the fairground rules from taking his message outside of the tent where he was working.

Dutko told his listeners that he was just being neighborly and thought he would walk over and say, “Hi.” His account is not in “conformity with fact or reality”; his account begins with a lie. A “lie” is “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive.”

Bob Dutko was not satisfied by Kevin’s reply and responded, “Why not?”

Dutko, like the woman earlier, was in the wrong; he was taking the argument to the neighboring tent and he was provoking disagreement. Galatians 5:26 suggests that Christians should not be conceited or provoke others; Dutko is the textbook example of conceit and provocation.

Kevin Shopshire was asked why he would not sign the petition and he was forthright in his reply indicating as he had earlier that tax dollars were not being spent on abortions and that the petition she was circulating was a sham designed to stir people up. Bob Dutko was quick with, “But Obamacare …”

This conversation was not going to end well because there was no place for Kevin to retreat; he could not walk away because Dutko was inside our tent. Dutko was the clever and aggressive one; Kevin was merely being honest and forthright.

I did not join the conversation immediately and I did not take notes but I recall Kevin indicating that he did not wish to discuss it further and Dutko pushing forward with something about why was it so difficult to just have a conversation about it. Dutko was not on the defense; he was on the offense.

I went over and told Bob Dutko that I was not really interested in having the full conversation with him but I did want to know if the petition being circulated was a “legislative ballot initiative”. His reply was evasive and I wasn’t sure why but I wanted to know so I rephrased the question asking if the petition were successful would it lead to language being placed on the ballot in November. His reply was again … evasive.

I don’t know why he didn’t just answer the question but I had a couple of thoughts: 1) he may not have known the answer; but that seemed unlikely, 2) the petition may have been a sham petition that was merely collecting names of supporters who would later be asked for donations, or 3) answering a question puts the other party in control of the conversation and he may have been attempting to keep control of the conversation by refusing to answer.

In retrospect, I believe it was answer 3; he was keeping himself in control. In any event I wanted to know so I rephrased the question again asking if the petition was a legal kind of petition that was required to have language approved and filed with the Secretary of State. This provoked a response; Dutko became all indignant telling me that I was suggesting that the petition was somehow “illegal”.

I attempted to recover and then I realized it was useless and said firmly, “Is this or is this not a ‘legislative ballot initiative’; do you even know what a ‘legislative ballot initiative’ is?”

I think this is when Kevin told him that it would be better if he went back to his own tent. Kevin’s suggestion was not rude, loud or even forceful, it was a suggestion. Dutko was in our tent; we were not in his. We rented the space to promote our message and his message was not welcome in our space.

Dutko suggests that he was in a “public” place, but he was not; he was in a place that was privately rented by the Monroe County Democratic Party and he should have left when asked to do so.

Romans 12:17-18 suggests that a Christian should not repay anyone evil for evil but should be careful to do what is right and if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Dutko’s actions were NOT those of a Christian. Whereas we could not leave our tent to preserve the peace, it was well within his power to do so.

Dutko began to carry on and asked why we always got “angry” and Kevin asked him more forcefully to leave then I stated as firmly and matter of factually as possible, “You have been asked to leave; you need to leave.”

This is the point where Dutko took off his glasses and leaned into me. That is right, I did not get in his face as he stated in his account; he got in mine.

One aspect of Dutko’s account really strikes me in an odd way. Dutko told his listeners that throughout the conversation he had the urge to strike one of us and that the only reason he didn’t do so was because he was a Christian. I am not a Christian and I never had the urge to strike Dutko.

Dutko asked, “Is this your tough guy routine? Is this is your best tough guy routine? It’s not very effective!” He was clearly scrapping for a fight and I was not at all interested in that. I am reminded of how a frightened dog’s hair stands up on the back of its neck and how it snaps at you to scare you away. Dogs sometimes catch me off guard but they don’t frighten me and neither did Bob Dutko.

Dutko indicated that if we had been “polite” he might have left but he was not going to be “bullied” into leaving a “public” place. I began to say that he had been “politely” asked but then realized that he was being a petulant child. He literally crossed his arms and planted his feet like a three year old. I told him, “We have no duty to be polite, but you have been asked and ordered to leave; you must leave this tent now.”

He said that he would not. At this point, Bob Dutko was a trespasser. As I indicated, the space in the tent was rented and it was ours to occupy and control. There are some rules relative to ‘places of public accommodation’ but Bob Dutko had violated those rules when he first entered the tent and asked Kevin to sign the petition. Bob Dutko needed to leave the tent but he was not going to do so.

I went to the fairground office and let them know what was happening and asked them to help out. They agreed to send someone to the tent. When I returned Bob Dutko was still standing in the rent, resolutely, arms folded and feet planted. He said, “I see nobody came with you. I think I will leave the tent now but not because I was bullied out.”

I replied, “You have been asked to leave and you should, either way someone will be here shortly to speak with you.”

When the fairground manager arrived at the Democratic Party tent and asked me what was happening, Bob Dutko simply could not stay in the Traditional Values tent and rushed over to get his points in. The fairground manager asked him to return to his tent and he did.

Bob Dutko tells his listeners that he did not visit our tent again because he did not want to provoke us. The real reason that he did not visit out tent again is because the fairground manger explained the rules to him and directed him to honor our demand that he stay out of our tent. We had every right to make that demand and he had a duty to honor it, even if it deflated his ego.

Romans 12:21 says do not overcome evil with evil, but overcome evil with good. Bob Dutko tells his listeners that he did not “repay evil with evil” and I agree. No evil was done to Bob Dutko; Bob Dutko was the bully and he brought the evil from the Traditional Values tent into the Democratic Party tent.

He should not have come into our tent asking for a petition signature, he should have accepted the fact that Kevin did not wish to sign without explanation, he asked for an explanation and should have accepted the explanation without argument, and he was asked to leave the tent and should have left immediately.

Diehard Bob Dutko fans will not view his actions as being motivated by conceit, pomp, arrogance, or self-righteousness; they will not recognize him as a smarmy, slimy, slippery, evasive, and deceitful liar; and they will not identify him as the actual bully in his story. 

All I can do is make sure that the intelligent people who stumble upon his record of the encounter have the opportunity to read a more honest account.