Reality Has A Well-Known Liberal Bias, Wisconsin Edition

I know that probably everything below is obvious to this audience and/or already presented better by someone else here, but anyway:  following up John’s post on the deliberate deception behind the “contribute more” demand of public service workers in Wisconsin, here’s some inconvenient data.

The shorter:  public service workers are not overpaid.  Not even a little bit.*

Let me turn it over to an MIT colleague (one vastly more accomplished than I), Thomas Kochan,

Kochan is a Wisconsin native and a University of Wisconsin graduate.  He’s recently been involved in some creative and effective labor negotiations in Massachusetts.  In his day job, he studies industrial relations and labor policy at MIT in both the Engineering Systems Division and the Sloan School of Management (i.e. not habitats exactly  overpopulated with DFH’s).

Here’s what he had to say to his home state:

It has to start by getting the facts right. Wisconsin’s public service employees are not overpaid relative to their private sector counterparts. Rutgers University professor Jeffrey Keefe has done the analysis. (See his complete study on our Employment Policy Research Network website: Controlling for education and other standard human capital variables he found that Wisconsin’s public sector workers earn 8.2 percent less than their private sector counterparts in wages and salaries. Taking fringe benefits into account shrinks the difference to 4.2 percent. Thus, public sector workers have lower wages and higher fringe benefits (yes, pensions and health care benefits are the two standouts). But overall, they are not overpaid compared to the private sector. No easy scapegoat here.

That is:  Wisconsin state workers are living exactly the way their fellow citizens  should want them to:  they are deferring present consumption for  income security in retirement.  This is what every financial counselor begs their clients to do.  It is what as a society we want to happen — better by far that our citizens anticipate and prepare for life after work than to hit the bricks with a grin and a sawbuck in their pockets.


And  Wisconsin civil service is exercising such prudence at a cost to the taxpayer lower than that of private sector workers.  You can argue whether or not that 4% figure is a sufficient price to pay for the (at least partly) notional job security public employees possess, but the basic point is clear:  Wisconsin state workers are hardly bilking the tax payer to enjoy lives of sloth and opulence.


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But Serious People Know This Doesn’t Count

The New York Times report about Dennis Montgomery, who allegedly defrauded the Pentagon and CIA out of $20 million over almost a decade, and whose software caused multiple false alarms while doing nothing to fight terrorism, contains this interesting fact:

Hints of fraud by Mr. Montgomery, previously raised by Bloomberg Markets and Playboy, provide a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of government contracting. A Pentagon study in January found that it had paid $285 billion in three years to more than 120 contractors accused of fraud or wrongdoing.

That’s $285 billion of spend on contractors who have committed real fraud, versus $1 billion of imaginary fraud. Perhaps some serious DC player will explain why the “math demands” we cut entitlements, yet we’re not even discussing shaving a few hundred billion dollars of waste from the Pentagon budget. And maybe when they’re done telling us why those dollars don’t count, they can also explain why we can’t just let the Bush tax cuts expire, which would cut the deficit to 3% of GDP in one fell swoop.

More on fiscal austerity and Iraq

So Digby noticed the Iraq/fiscal austerity parallels 7 months ago (h/t Elia). At any rate, it is quite striking. Here’s Orrin Hatch (h/t AK):

Hatch (Utah), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, accused Obama of surrendering on the budget like Chamberlain surrendered Czechoslovakia to Germany.

“The United States is demanding a Churchill on the issue of deficits and debt, but the administration has delivered us a Chamberlain,” Hatch said on the floor Monday, in a clear reference to Chamberlain’s foreign policy of “appeasement.”

I want to be clear, budgetary problems are complicated, just as Iraq is. I do not support running huge budget deficits forever, just as I did not support Saddam Hussein. However, I do not support spending cuts in the middle of the worst recession in 70 years, just as I did not support an ill-planned unilateral invasion of Iraq. And whenever someone starts talking about Chamberlain and Churchill in the context of some situation that bears no resemblance to the appeasement of Nazi Germany, I reach for my revolver.

Just Go To The Emergency Room

I agree with Lawrence Tribe that the legal challenges to the PPACA are “a political objection in legal garb” but the Republican refusal to engage in any kind of serious dialogue on health care outside a courtroom means that it’s up to us to ask them questions on what they have in mind.

When I read the conservative proposals for tort reform or high deductible, low value health insurance plans, I keep running into this inconvenient truth, and I’m wondering whether anyone dares to approach GOP elected leaders and ask about it:

In 1986, Congress enacted the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA) to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. Section 1867 of the Social Security Act imposes specific obligations on Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide a medical screening examination (MSE) when a request is made for examination or treatment for an emergency medical condition (EMC), including active labor, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Hospitals are then required to provide stabilizing treatment for patients with EMCs. If a hospital is unable to stabilize a patient within its capability, or if the patient requests, an appropriate transfer should be implemented.

We don’t even have to bring this law up, actually. Republicans raise it all the time, whenever they’re asked about what they plan to do with the tens of millions of uninsured and under-insured that will remain uninsured or under-insured under the conservative approach to health care:

McCONNELL: Well, they don’t go without health care. It’s not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance. So it is important, I think, to reduce the number of uninsured. The question is, what is the best way to do that?

Well, now, not exactly, Mitch.

McConnell lied, because McConnell knows better. It isn’t an oath that guarantees universal access to the emergency rooms of those hospitals that accept Medicare (so virtually all hospitals). It’s a federal law. A federal law that passed with wide bipartisan support under the sainted Ronald Reagan. Republicans have been dodging the implications of that law ever since, but, incredibly, in some soft-bigotry-of-low- expectations kind of way, they have been able to get away with both relying on it in the abstract and ignoring it as a practical matter.

In fact, at the time of EMTALA’s passage, despite what McConnell would have us believe, only 22 states had laws that guaranteed that no emergency patient was denied emergency care because of inability to pay; 28 states had no such law. The emergency room treatment guarantee has become such a part of the background of the health care system in this country that we keep forgetting to ask Republicans to explain how they can support and rely on this guarantee, while proposing no way to pay for it. I guess they’re in favor of “cost-shifting”, because that’s how we’re paying for it now.

Here’s what it was like before, under the state’s rights approach:

The Emergency Act was passed in 1986 amid growing concern over the availability of emergency health care services to the poor and uninsured. The statute was designed principally to address the problem of “patient dumping,” whereby hospital emergency rooms deny uninsured patients the same treatment provided paying patients, either by refusing care outright or by transferring uninsured patients to other facilities.

The EMTALA is really unusual because it mandates that private, public or non-profit entities provide goods and services (health care) to anyone who walks in the door, with no prior payment or promise to pay.

We subsidize some essential life-sustaining services in this country. Examples are food stamps, housing subsidies and heating assistance. But I can’t enter a supermarket and announce I’m there to receive my federally guaranteed emergency food ration. I can’t show up at a motel and ask for my federally guaranteed emergency shelter. I can’t contact a private power provider and assert my emergency HEAP rights.

I have to pay for those goods or services prior to receiving them. I can use a voucher, like with food stamps, or I can use cash, or I can promise to pay with credit or insurance, but I don’t get the good or service prior to payment or promise to pay.

Further, I have to qualify for a federal/state voucher for food or housing or heating assistance. Those services are not universal. The level of assistance varies from state to state, and I can’t take my guarantee across state lines. None of those restrictions apply with emergency medical care. If I’m traveling through any state and I have what I perceive to be a medical emergency (or an actual medical emergency) any emergency room must assess, treat and stabilize, whether the hospital is public, non-profit or private, regardless of income, even if I’m not a citizen of this country, let alone residing in a certain state or county, just because I’m alive. We did that at the federal level.

And Republicans know it. They endorse it. They rely on it.

Here’s former President Bush:

“The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans. I mean, people have access to health care in America,” he said. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

Easy! Just go to an emergency room! Well, that’s settled then. Let’s get on with the tax cuts.

Since 1986 we’ve been relying on an emergency stop gap because we flat-out refuse to grapple with health care. We’ve relied on it so long, incredibly, it has become part of the conservative argument against health care reform.

It’s the single reason why conservatives can simultaneously oppose any health care reform while claiming to be humanitarians, or just minimally decent human beings. They’re monsters without EMTALA, and they could not continue to pass the buck on health care without it.

Read it again:

to ensure public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay

It mandates rock-bottom safety-net health care delivery at the federal level and it’s universal. We passed the law in 1986, with broad bipartisan support under Ronald Reagan, but we forgot to make any provisions for complete payment on uncompensated care, so we use the completely non-transparent payment mechanism called “cost-shifting”. We hide the cost.

Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion and they oppose federal subsidies for middle class health insurance, while at the same time relying on this law as a safety net, which is what it is.

Is anyone going to ask them about that?

Christine O’Donnell: S.C.R.E.A.M. (Socialist Cash Rules Everything Around Me)

The only happy trail she’s concerned about is the money trail

OMG, you guyz!! The Virgin Saint of Financial Mismanagement is going to investigate leftist socialistlibrulists groups because GEORGE SOROS and JEWS, that’s why:

Failed GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell is back, and she’s telling supporters she wants her newly formed political action committee ChristinePAC to “investigate and counter attack leftwing groups.”

O’Donnell, who wrote that her losing campaign sent “shockwaves” throughout the nation, said in an e-mail to supporters Tuesday that her group will look into the groups “funded with one million dollars or more from billionaire leftist George Soros.”

“The Left keeps after me because they consider strong, Republican women a danger to their status quo,” O’Donnell wrote. “Your donation also enables me to speak out in many venues from Coast to Coast, thereby helping support a nationwide effort. This is a way that will help me counter attack our opponents and bring the battle to them.”

ChristinePAC is based out of O’Donnell’s Delaware home, raising concerns for ethics groups given that O’Donnell is already under investigation for alleged misuse of campaign funds.

Christine, honey — you’re never going to achieve full Palinosity until you stop running your PAC from your fucking house. You should totally demand that Fox News build you a house! They built Sarah her own studio! Aren’t you, like, totes jellis!? Well, you should be. I heard Palin talking shit about you during the pep rally. I heard from this one chick that Sarah calls you thunder thighs behind your back, like all the time. I know! What a slutbag! What’s her damage, anyway?

Run along, now. Aren’t you late for your weekly virgin sacrifice? Here: you can borrow my pentagram pendant.

[via TPM]

[cross-posted here at Angry Black Lady Chronicles]