There are key elements in this year’s budget that make it impossible for me to support it. Regardless of what appears to be short term gains, the long term results are very serious deficiencies further down the road.
The Republicans are very proud of their reductions of the Business Profit Tax and the Business Enterprise Tax. The total cost of lost revenue over years is estimated to be around $650 million. The problem is there is no plan to replace that money. The loss of that money, which is used to support current programs, means the cost of those programs will be downshifted to local government and that means that property taxes will likely rise. That means that while business may get a reduction in their taxes, the rest of us will end up paying higher property taxes.
The proposed budget for the university system is flat funded, which realistically means that due to inflation, they are actually taking a cut in funding. That coupled with the fact that monies from the Governor’s Scholarship Fund can go to private colleges makes the reduced funding of the university system unacceptable.
For reasons only political, the budget includes the Hyde Amendment, which says that federal monies cannot go to pay for abortions. That is a federal requirement and including it in the state budget has no meaning except to further politicize the budget process and symbolically undermine women’s rights.
Development Disabilities services will be under funded to the tune of $36 million. After important work to reduce the number of people who are on a waiting list for services, this reduction will cause that wait list to grow by the hundreds.
Pay increases for those who work in the mental health field were eliminated.
Retired state employees under the age of 65 will see their health care benefit costs increase from 17.5% to 20% . Those over 65, who now pay nothing, will have to pay 10%. This is a broken promise the state made to those employees, who worked for the state for the duration of their careers, accepting lower salaries because they were guaranteed additional retirement benefits to compensate for the lower wages. This is just plain wrong.
There are other reasons, but these are the highlights, or the lowlights, of the proposed state budget and the reasons why I cannot in good conscience vote for it.
Posted on 20 Jun 2017, 18:33 - Category: Politics
It is hard to find information that is not slanted one way or the other. Sometimes it is misleading while other times, it is just plain untrue, if not deliberately false. It is human nature to seek out information that supports our views but it is important to suppress that tendency in the search fact. Where all fashion of information and mis-information is available, it becomes our responsibility to use our abilities and intelligence to discern what is accurate and what is not. It is also important that we consider consequences of particular proposals and arguments. I found this especially confounding with regard to Right to Work laws.
The New Hampshire Senate recently supported passage of Right to Work in New Hampshire. This was done in the face of significant and united opposition from the workers who would be negatively impacted by this legislation.
I attended several hours of the committee hearing. Some of the arguments for Right to Work bordered on the comical, likening unions to kidnappers and rogue taxi drivers. Other arguments, which sounded reasonable, had nothing to do with the proposed legislation. Arguments against Right to Work were often a little vague for my taste. So I set out to educate myself.
By and large, arguments for Right to Work claim that, because NH is not a Right to Work state, businesses are not moving here and NH businesses are not growing. However, when one examines what businesses actually say are the barriers to relocation or growth, high utility costs and the lack of a trained workforce lead the list, not RTW (Right to Work). Also on the list of concerns is lack of access to transportation, lack of affordable housing, and quality of education. This is according to articles in the Boston Globe, Seacoast online, and NH Business Review. Most business owners surveyed in NH do not list Right to Work as a barrier to growth.
I looked for articles that support Right to Work. When reading one article, I felt as if I was part of a verbal shell game. This article by James Sherk (Heritage.org) listed “myths” of RTW as reasons why unions are opposed to it. In debunking such “myths” the author put forth arguments that have nothing to do with the so-called myths, but sounded like they did.
For instance, the article says the claim that RTW legislation would prohibit unions is not true. Right, technically, RTW does not prohibit unions. RTW weakens them. The article goes on to say that RTW makes paying dues voluntary. But, RTW does not make paying dues voluntary because they already are voluntary. The author gives credit to RTW for the status quo which is ludicrous. It is like giving credit to birds for the sky being blue. Joining a union is not required for employment in any field. Dues are voluntary.
Further the author talks about the “myth”that RTW lowers wages and answers that by saying that, while wages are indeed lower in RTW states, that does not matter because buying power is the same or higher in RTW states. That is not the same thing. According to Jared Bernstein, buying power is tied to falling prices and working longer hours. Lower wages are still lower wages, and when wages are lower than they used to be, buying power is also decreased. Having to work longer hours in order to maintain buying power is not a benefit.
The claim that the majority of Americans support RTW legislation is also misleading, because that was not the question asked. The Gallup poll cited by Sherk asked whether or not Americans felt that workers should be forced to join a union, which does not translate into support of RTW. Union membership is not only not required but it is illegal to attempt to force any person to join a union.
The essential question to be asked is whether or not non-union workers should be charged for benefits they receive that the union negotiates for on their behalf. Unions are required to represent all workers, regardless of whether or not that worker is a union member. However, as non-union members benefit to the same extent as union members, unions charge what amounts to a “service fee” for negotiating those benefits. These benefits include wage increases, vacation, health benefits, and workplace safety. As part of the contract, the union and the employer negotiate an amount that will be charged to all workers to pay for the cost of that representation. This is referred to as a union security clause. These fees allow the union to pay for the costs of collective bargaining. In the end, whatever fees are charged are much lower than the benefits these workers receive through collective bargaining in the way of higher wages. Without this mechanism in place, wages for all workers across the state would be lower, union shop or not. For each individual worker, this service charge pays for itself many times over.
The effect of Right to Work is that it allows workers who are not union members to avoid paying for this service, a practice referred to as “free loading.” The result is that unions are weakened as the amount of money they can collect to pay for their work is reduced and at some point, maintaining the union becomes untenable. And what happens when there is no union representation? Wages are lower and workers have little recourse to protest.
It is also worth noting that it appears to be the business owners who are the ones leading the charge and not the workers themselves. Business owners have always disliked unions and have continually looked for ways to diminish their ability to broker for higher wages and better working conditions. RTW is merely another attempt to undermine the good work that unions do on the behalf of every worker, union members or not. RTW is not really about these service charges, but an attempt to weaken union’s ability to collective bargain for better wages and a safer work environment for everyone.
One article I read likened this situation to that of paying taxes. If paying taxes were a voluntary activity, most people would opt out. What, then, would happen to the services that we all use, paid for by taxes, such as police and fire protection, or roads? With a smaller pool pitching in to help defray these costs, we would soon not have much in the way of a police force. A diminished fire department would not be able to respond to fires in the way that we have come to expect. Roads would eventually become unusable. As we all benefit, we do not consider it unreasonable that we all pitch in and we can appreciate what would happen if this was not the case.
If taxpayers are not happy with how taxes are used, they have the opportunity to elect new representatives. If workers do not think union leadership is achieving satisfactory results on their behalf, new leadership is elected.
It is not exactly the same thing as unions, but there are parallels. If a union cannot pay for what it costs the union to collective bargain on the behalf of everyone, as stated by law, then all workers would suffer with the same lower wages and reduced benefits. This is exactly what has happened in RTW states. Wages are lower for all workers in those states.
The most comprehensive study I found on the effects of RTW was from the Economic Policy Institute, in an article called “Right-to-Work States Still Have Lower Wages,” written by Elise Gould and Will Kimball, April 22, 2015. These researchers concluded that, “No matter how you slice the data, wages in RTW states are lower, on average, than wages in non-RTW states.”
They go on to say that “these results do not just apply to union members, but to all employees in a state. Where unions are strong, compensation increases even for workers not covered by any union contract, as nonunion employers face competitive pressure to match union standards. Likewise, when unions are weakened by RTW laws, all of a state’s workers feel the impact.”
In the end, according to Brad Plummer from the Washington Post, however you look at it, the bottomline is “business owners gain, and workers lose.”Read More...
Posted on 23 Jan 2017, 16:35 - Category: Politics
A serious and tragic casualty of the 2016 election is the possible death of Fact, as well as her close companion, Truth. Trump has no regard for facts and wants no one around him who does. He has no qualms about tweeting anything that pops into his head regardless of impact or veracity. He says whatever is expedient for him at the time, or worse, what amuses him or what he thinks will amuse and capture the attention of those who are taken in by his persona, regardless of accuracy or truth.
He surrounds himself with toadies who back him up. In a recent interview with Diane Rehm, Scottie Nell Hughes, a political correspondent and Trump supporter, drove a stake through the heart of truth. She announced to the entire listening audience that “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.”
What matters now, Hughes suggested, is not whether something is true but instead how many people believe it to be true. Trump followers are happy to accept anything he tweets, but anyone who points out the falseness of what he says is accused of not telling the truth. In their upside down world, those who speak the truth are the liars, as opposed to those who are in fact telling the lies.
Here is a fact. Hughes is wrong. There is such a thing as fact, and fact is, Donald Trump lies, as when he put forward the absurd notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. Or when he claimed there was voter fraud in Virginia and New Hampshire when there is not a shred of evidence to support such a claim. He takes the position that if he wins, there is no fraud, but when he loses, then there is fraud. He is not only a poor loser but also a poor winner.
Kellyanne Conway put it this way in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, on "Morning Joe,” saying it is not really a lie when Trump says something untrue because he does not really know that what he is saying is not the truth. Perhaps he should find out before he starts tweeting in the middle of the night. It is an understatement to say that the press has been kind to Trump regarding some of the outrageous things he has said, but I think they finally realize they cannot continue doing that. When Trump says something that is patently untrue, it is the job of the press to call it out. Perhaps this is one reason Trump said he would like to limit freedom of the press. He has taken the position that journalists can say whatever they want and “get away with it” although this also is simply not true and why some people fear that we might well turn into a fascist state.
This begs the question of whether or not truth matters. The answer is of course it does. Lies and this fake news have serious consequences. How is it possible that citizens in the United States, who have presumably benefitted by our educational system, are unable to discriminate between real news and fake news.
Case in point is the person who recently stormed a pizza place after reading a false news report that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring from a pizza parlor. Who in the world with anything that even resembles a brain would think such a ridiculous proposition could be true. And beyond that, what kind of person takes it upon himself to go and investigate such nonsense and brings a gun to boot? It is not only staggering to imagine such idiocy in the American populace but also downright frightening that people are acting on false news.
It is not just the truth that has been compromised. Civilized behavior and respect for others have been kicked to the side of the road as well. Kellyanne Conway says that since Trump is the president-elect whatever he does is presidential behavior. I don’t recall her saying anything like that when Mr. Clinton was president. She goes even further when she says that, “When the president does it, that means that it’s not illegal.”
Lewandowski, the quintessential yes-man, blames the press for making his boss look bad. He said “You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.” I remember a past student who in a moment of frustration said “Don’t listen to what I say, listen to what I mean.” It really does not work that way. You had better mean what you say and be clear about it especially when speaking to the press. Their job is to report what you say, not to try to figure out what you might have meant.
This is a call to action. When you hear a false statement, say so and back it up. Truth is not something achieved through popular opinion. Truth is supported by reality. Facts are in fact verifiable. One cannot toss out a statement without evidence to back it up and expect that people will accept it as truth. It is imperative that we name this and stand up for truth, for facts, for the essential value of knowledge. This is our civic duty as citizens. We must do this because if this nonsense persists, we will most surely fall into a period of dark ages where lies, ignorance and superstition become reality.
Truth will need our support over the next couple of years. Truth needs us to counter false statements, and false news put out by those who seek to plant poisonous seeds which will grow into movements that will undermine the very values that make the United States the country that it is, the country our forefathers intended. Those who deny truth under the guise of patriotism are those seeking to destroy it. Without our courage to stand up to this assault, we will not be able to blame only Trump and his cabinet of incompetents but also ourselves for not speaking out should things go sideways. The only way to maintain our essential humanity and the integrity of our souls is to speak truth, based in fact. This takes courage and effort but this country is worth it. We cannot let Truth down.Read More...
Posted on 16 Dec 2016, 12:04 - Category: Politics
We want to believe that we can trust the community around us to be honest with us, especially as it pertains to issues regarding our health and the health of our children. Sadly, that honesty is not often forthcoming, or even worse, is deliberately circumvented, so as to obfuscate the truth. Indeed there are companies devoted to doing just that. Recently we saw an example of this in the Portsmouth Herald’s Sunday (9-18) medical section; Tip of the Day. The tip, as it were, touted the safety of BPA, an element found in many plastic household products. The takeaway was that BPA is perfectly safe. The text and its presentation were designed to give the impression that this was an actual news item. But this was not the case and in fact, the information presented was, to put it kindly, of questionable nature. This article was submitted to the paper by a marketing company called Brandpoint.
I did a little checking into Brandpoint; who they are and what they do. I found, on their website, a special section dedicated to the pharma industry, called An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies (http://www.brandpoint.com/blog/an-advertising-solution-for-pharma-companies/).
On this page, Brandpoint says that their “native advertising initiative” is of great benefit, specifically, to pharmaceutical and chemical companies because Brandpoint can create “a piece of branded content that mimics a news article.” That is to say, they will write and submit articles promoting products of pharma companies that sound like legitimate news stories as opposed to advertisements.
They go on to say that this “mighty” tool helps companies that are “usually bogged down with legal red tape” to tell anecdotal stories that are presented as proof of a chemical’s efficacy and safety. Brandpoint goes on to remind its clients that “FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them.” Heaven forbid that potential consumers should have to know about those pesky side effects.
In the “article,” Brandpoint does not mention that it is because of BPA’s that they tell you not to microwave food in a plastic container. In 2009, the FDA banned makers of baby bottles and sippy cups from using BPA’s in their products. And yet, BPA was still used in the making of containers that held baby formula. The FDA got around to banning that in 2013.
The FDA still considers BPA to be more or less safe for the general population, but there are studies done with laboratory animals that suggest BPA may not be so safe after all. In 2006, a panel of medical experts met in Chapel Hill, NC, to discuss the matter and in their summary said that “BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” (S. Vogel, "The Politics of Plastics: The Making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A 'Safety'". American Journal of Public Health. 99 (S3): 559–566.)
I suppose I should not be surprised that companies like this exist and that their goal is to mislead for the purpose of padding their clients’, and consequently, their own, pockets. But such maneuvers tear at the fabric of our community, which is built on trust. Perhaps we trust too much and have become complacent. Finding out about this company (and I’m sure there are others) reminds me that we must remain vigilant and speak out when we uncover attempts to mislead and put us, and our children, in harm’s way. While we probably cannot influence companies like Brandpoint to not present misleading advertising, we can insist that our local purveyors of the news, like the Portsmouth Herald, not be a party to such misdirection. Let them know that it is not socially responsible to print an item as news when it is, in fact, an advertisement.
Native advertising, and the MAT release in particular, is one of those solutions. A MAT release (or master of aligned type, for all you 1950s marketing geeks) is a piece of branded content that mimics a news article. It presents factual information in the form of a narrative, distilled into about 500 to 700 words (minus the disclaimers) and distributed to several newspapers, as well as traditional and digital marketing outlets. And there lies the greatest opportunity for pharma companies.
The mighty MAT release is helping brands usually bogged down with legal red tape to use their most compelling asset: patient stories. These stories of patients, their ailments and their recoveries make these companies truly unique, and this form of native advertising offers the perfect medium. Just like any other story, the best kind is about a person with a specific malady that your product or service helps alleviate, with a clear beginning, middle and end. And just like that, you’ve got a piece of content that is genuine, unique and versatile, whether it’s used as part of an ad, PR or social currency.
FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them. But these brands can utilize the MAT release and its narrative structure to tell patient-centric stories and create a lasting impact on a massive audience. We should know. We’ve written a few thousand of them. It’s perhaps a little more complicated than the minimalist, less-is-more examples you see in those timeless VW ads (and yes, those disclaimers and ISI info still need to be a part of the release), but it’s an incredibly effective means for pharma companies to detach from the visual and focus on the patient to tell the story.
No matter your industry, Brandpoint’s Mat release services don’t stop at writing. We also handle editing and provide access to one of the largest distribution networks in the country. Check us out for more information.
(Copied from Brandpoints page entitled An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies.)
The key conclusions of the report included expression of some concern over the potential for developmental toxicicty for fetuses, infants, and children. And this was based primarily on evidence from animal studies that would suggest that there might be effects on the development of the prostate gland, and the brain, and also for the potential for behavioral effects. There was also a lower level of concern, minimal concern, expressed over potential for changes in the development of the mammary gland and also for the age at which females attain puberty. There was also a level of minimal concern expressed for workers exposed in occupational settings. But with the exception of that, exposures to adults were considered to be not particularly risky for exposures to BPA.
The fact that there are so many levels of uncertainty make it very difficult for us to make any kind of overall recommendations as to how exactly the U.S. public should view bisphenol A right at this point, but it clearly has also identified a number of research areas that we think need to be followed up on in great detail to give us a better handle and reduce some of these uncertainties and allow a clearer picture of exactly what we should be doing as a society with regards to exposures to BPA.(2008, the National Toxicology Program )
In 2006, the US Government sponsored an assessment of the scientific literature on BPA. Thirty-eight experts in fields involved with bisphenol A gathered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to review several hundred studies on BPA, many conducted by members of the group. At the end of the meeting, the group issued the Chapel Hill Consensus Statement, which stated "BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals." The Chapel Hill Consensus Statement stated that average BPA levels in people were above those that cause harm to many animals in laboratory experiments. It noted that while BPA is not persistent in the environment or in humans, biomonitoring surveys indicate that exposure is continuous. This is problematic because acute animal exposure studies are used to estimate daily human exposure to BPA, and no studies that had examined BPA pharmacokinetics in animal models had followed continuous low-level exposures. The authors added that measurement of BPA levels in serum and other body fluids suggests the possibilities that BPA intake is much higher than accounted for or that BPA can bioaccumulate in some conditions (such as pregnancy). (Chapel Hill bisphenol A expert panel consensus statement: Integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential to impact human health at current levels of exposure)
Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:40 - Category: Politics
I found this article especially interesting and straightforward. I appreciate the honesty of D. Allan Kerr
Posted on 25 Jul 2016, 14:02 - Category: Politics