Friday, March 21, 2008

Thanks to Milt Rosenberg and Bruce DuMont

I just came back from a fun bloggers discussion on Extension 720 with Milt Rosenberg. Hiram Wurf and I represented the progressive wing of the nation while Richard Baehr and the proprietor of Copious Dissent represented the dead party. Thanks to Milt and the Extension team for the kind invitation.

It's fairly clear that the idea of Senator McCain as the paragon of national security can only persist if voters believe that we are safer from invading all Muslim nations.

It's probably in the interest of the Democratic Party (and the Republic) to wage a geography 101 campaign for all adults and teach the electorate each of the nations of the Middle East so that everyone can make clear distinctions between, say, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

I suspect that the common sense view that it makes no sense to invade and occupy Iraq (and consider the same thing with Iran) because an Afghanistan-based terrorist organization successfully attacked the United States has a harder time earning support among people who are not sure which nation is which.

Maybe we should have the Schoolhouse Rock type of animated educational television spots that helped to successfully teach children watching Saturday morning cartoons (like me) updated and launched in prime time for adults.

This Sunday, I'll be on Beyond the Beltway with Bruce DuMont along with my friend Chris Varones. Catch it on WLS from 6 pm to 8 pm on Easter. Thanks to Bruce for the kind invitation.

If Richardson can endorse Barack, why can't Rahm Emanuel?

There is only one super-delegate from Illinois who has not endorsed Barack Obama.

That's Congressman Rahm Emanuel.

He remains neutral in this contest.

Trouble is, the superdelegates are going to decide the nomination.

And that means Rahm Emanuel's vote at the Denver convention will be crucial.

Why hasn't he endorsed Barack Obama when every other Illinois superdelegate and the vast majority of the pledged delegates have done so?

Because President Bill Clinton brought him into national politics and he remains loyal to his former boss. That's not a bad thing. And in fact, there wasn't any reason to complain about his decision to stay neutral, even after his state and the primary voters of his district overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama in the February 5th primary.

Until now.

Now that it's clear that his vote matters. And the dwindling number of unpledged superdelegates are crucial to the entire contest.

Now it's time to pick sides.

Today, Governor Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama. Governor Bill Richardson was just as loyal to the Clintons as Rahm Emanuel. Richardson was appointed Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of the Energy Department by President Clinton. That's a big deal.

But he made a decision -- after the voters of his state weighed in.

Why won't Rahm Emanuel do the same?

It's time for Illinois Democrats to end the Emanuel exemption for endorsements.

It's understandable why he has been neutral. Now, however, with the Clinton campaign signaling their intent to campaign all the way until the August convention in Denver (even though there is no way that Senator Clinton can earn more delegates or total votes than Senator Obama, which means the only way that Senator Clinton can win the nomination is if superdelegates like Rahm Emanual decide to pick her over the majority of voters and majority of pledged delegates), it's time to unify behind Obama.

It's time for Rahm Emanuel to endorse Barack Obama.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why one big pool -- Medicare for all -- will reduce government spending

The February 2008 edition of Illinois Issues has this insightful piece in Bethany Jaeger's cover story called Collective Action:

Illinois paid nearly $3.9 billion in payroll, or "personal services," in fiscal year 2007. That doesn't include higher education or retirement or Social Security benefits for more than 72,300 employees. But the cost of payroll is $1 billion less than during the previous administration of Gov. George Ryan, who had about 14,000 more employees.

Despite the Blagojevich Administration's smaller head count, group health insurance costs drastically increased to $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2007, compared with $876 million in fiscal year '02.

Wow. So health care is about a third of the cost of salaries -- and the cost of health care is skyrocketing.

Underneath every local government fiscal report is the same story: much higher group health insurance costs.

An answer is to put all public employees in the same government-financed health insurance pool as every one else. It's called Medicare. And it should be expanded to include every one, particularly public employees.

With one big pool, the administrative costs of running each of these group health insurance pools for each level of government disappear. And we can simplify (and almost eliminate) billings with providers since there is only one payor to deal with: Medicare.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Experience important in Obama, Clinton presidential campaign?

Perhaps you are wondering how much experience should matter when you are choosing between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton.

I found the following test from kos on the the votemaster website:
Suppose you had to choose between two Presidential candidates, one of whom
had spent 20 years in Congress plus had considerable other relevant experience
and the other of whom had about half a dozen years in the Illinois state
legislature and 2 years in Congress.

Which one do you think would make a better President?

If you chose #1, congratulations, you picked James Buchanan over Abraham

Your pick disagrees with that of most historians, who see Lincoln as the
greatest President ever and Buchanan as the second worst ever, better only than
Warren "Teapot Dome" Harding.

In other words, experience in hanging around Washington, D.C. should not be the main reason to pick a president. If that were true, then Washington must be working very well, and you would want to continue along the same course by picking the people with the most experience. If you want to change the way that the government is working, then you should not pick someone who has been a big part of the government for a long time. That's just common sense.

It's more important to pick a candidate based on their ability to lead and the judgment they show.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Want convention business? Then keep Sam Zell off welfare

The idea that an asset worth a billion dollars owned by one of the wealthiest men in Illinois should get government money is so preposterous on its face that I'm a little sad that we have to argue whether or not we should put Sam Zell's Chicago Cubs on welfare.

The potential source of government money for Sam Zell and the Tribune Company is a 2% hotel tax currently assessed on every hotel room in the City of Chicago and collected by the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

The Illinois Welfare For Millionaires Authority -- sorry, I mean the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority -- collects $34,000,000 annually from the hotel tax and picks up another $5 million each from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago (really, it's $10 million from the State, but 5 of that was supposed to go to the City, so they count it as 5 from each).

You can read their Annual Report (a fine job, actually) to see their budget if you don't believe me.

So, we could decide that, like it or not, we turned the White Sox into the Welfare Sox back in 1987, and built public schools --- oops, I mean public ballpark -- with government money, and since we have to pay off those bonds, we should keep the tax going until the the ballpark is paid off and then .... eliminate the tax. Or use the money to build public schools. Or rebuild the CTA. Or the Dan Ryan. Or something that .... everyone benefits and not just the owners of the White Sox.

Or, we could do what former Governor Jim Thompson apparently wants to do and keep the hotel tax going forever, only this time we can use the money from the tax to make Sam Zell and the owners of theTribune Company richer by renovating Wrigley Field with public money so that they can sell it for more money next year.

Meanwhile, no money for schools, bridges, transit, rail, universities or other things that benefit everyone.

(I know I'm skipping over the $400 million in public money that we decided to spend on the McCaskey family of Lake Forest and the other owners of the Chicago Bears in 2001 -- but you get the idea).

So, who thinks it is a good idea to (a) keep our hotel taxes among the highest in the nation and (b) spend the money from that tax on making Illinois millionaires richer?

Besides former Governor Jim Thompson, I hope the answer is: no elected officials.

There is a consequence to keeping out hotel tax the highest in the country (almost 15%!). When it becomes more expensive to come to Chicago, conventions go elsewhere. We will not attract any more visitors or conventions by making Sam Zell richer. So why exactly are we running convention business out of Chicago to make Sam Zell and the Tribune richer?

This Crain's Chicago Business article explains how Orlando is starting to beat us at attracting conventions. Orlando's hotel tax is 11%. Ours is 15%. If we quit making putting millionaires who own sports teams on welfare, we could split the difference between our current tax and Orlando's current tax and get more competitive -- and maybe attract more conventions.