Kentucky editorial roundup
Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:
The Lexington Herald-Leader on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s comments on legislation dealing with voting:
Kentuckians should ask: Why is our senior senator so afraid of his constituents turning out to vote in greater numbers?
Legislation that would make it both easier to vote and harder for states to suppress the vote has thrown Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell into a tizzy.
Flushed out by Democrats who newly control the House, McConnell increasingly sounds like one of those segregationist lions of yore who roamed the Senate, cloaking their political self-interest in pious bluster about states’ rights and an oppressive federal government.
McConnell has the power to kill the Democrats’ bill by keeping it from ever coming to a vote in the Senate. Perhaps he thinks he also can transform the measure into a weapon to use against Democrats, which would explain why he’s been deriding it every day on the Senate floor and in a Washington Post op-ed.
You’d think he’d be more subtle, though. McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, has all but declared that he’s against removing barriers to voting and making elections cleaner and more fair because he thinks it would help Democrats win.
The House bill that has McConnell so worked up is, indeed, a sweeping piece of legislation, and that makes sense. The multiplying threats of voter suppression, a government closed to all but big-money donors and the corrupting effects on our democracy demand a sweeping response.
For almost every proposed reform, McConnell offers a cynical rejoinder:
Make it harder for billionaires to hide their political spending and their outsized influence over voters and government? Gives “Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate,” says McConnell.
Make Election Day a federal holiday and give federal employees time off to help ease the shortage of poll workers? Ew, federal employees hovering “around while you cast your ballot.”
Restore provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2013? “A Washington D.C. power grab for its very own sake.” McConnell spurns the role that Congress and the federal government always have had to play in protecting the rights of black Americans to vote without fear, something that’s true today for other minorities as well.
Most repugnant is McConnell’s opposition to restoring the voting rights of people who have been convicted of a felony and served their time. A quarter of black Kentuckians have lost the right to vote because of our state’s unusual lifetime ban on felon voting, according to a new study by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. Altogether 312,000 Kentuckians are barred from voting by a felony conviction.
McConnell casts himself as a defender of the constitutional right of state legislatures to prescribe “quote — the time, places and manner of holding elections.” However, Republicans in Kentucky’s legislature have consistently blocked Kentuckians from voting on an amendment that would restore voting rights to felons, and Republican Matt Bevin overturned his predecessor’s restoration of voting rights to some felons.
A poll conducted by the League in December found that 66 percent of Kentucky voters support automatic restoration of the right to vote once a felony sentence is served. Democrats in Congress are trying to do what Kentuckians want, but Republicans in the legislature have blocked.
McConnell has added “transparency intimidates” and “states’ rights over citizens’ rights” to his “money is speech” gospel. No doubt, his sermons will be rewarded by those who think government should belong to those who have the most money.
The State Journal on affording health care:
More Kentuckians are banking on the adage that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” According to a Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) released late last week, 21 percent of state households delay or forgo medical care due to cost.
That is a huge portion of the commonwealth. Glance around at your neighbors, as roughly one in five residences is not getting timely health care because prices have become too steep.
Although the problem is typically associated with lower-income households, in the four-year period between polls, more people in higher-income brackets reported holding off on or skipping medical care due to the expense. There was a 6 percent increase in the bracket of people with incomes equal to about $50,000 for a family of four, who claim rising costs weighed on their decision to delay or opt out of receiving adequate health care.
Why the sharp jump?
According to former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, CEO of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky — a co-sponsor of the poll — those with private insurance are paying more in copayments and deductibles than they did in 2014, the same year Kentucky expanded Medicaid to households with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Meanwhile, fees for those in Medicaid or other government insurance plans have remained stable or nonexistent. Yet, while the KHIP reported a 4 percent drop in the number of lower-income households delaying or forgoing health care, the rate still remains high at 25 percent.
In fact, about a quarter of Kentucky adults, regardless of income, do not regularly see a health care professional — a number that has risen 6 percent in the past 10 years. Those without health insurance were nearly twice as likely to lack a regular source of health care as those with coverage, the poll found.
When the low and middle class can’t afford access to adequate health care, we all lose. Medical care shouldn’t be a luxury for the rich, especially in the United States, but that is what it is quickly becoming.
The News-Enterprise on the threat of another government shutdown:
The threat of another shutdown looms on the horizon as the three-week stop-gap deadline nears for Congress to reach a deal on funding the continued operation of the federal government.
Previously scheduled only to be in session Feb. 11-13, the House extended its work schedule by an additional two days next week in an effort to get the critical work done before the continuing resolution expires Feb. 15. Without an appropriations bill with which the president and Congressional Republicans and Democrats can agree, non-essential government employees will find themselves furloughed for another undetermined period of time.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains steadfast in her opposition to any additional funding for expansion of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. She’s gone so far as to call the wall an “immorality between countries.”
President Donald Trump publicly denounces Pelosi for her rigid stance. If there is no deal that includes $5.7 billion in wall funding, last week Trump said he will consider declaring a national emergency to establish border security.
Lawsuits quickly will follow such potential action on the president’s part. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly has warned Trump this possible action would serve only to further divide an already hopelessly dysfunctional government.
Whether or not one views expansion of the border wall as an issue of morality, or holds the view that a porous southern border permeates conditions for a humanitarian crisis, one thing is certain. This entire impasse is costing America far more than the $5.7 billion Trump is demanding for the border barrier.
According to calculations released by the Congressional Budget Office, the recently ended 35-day shutdown cost the country an estimated $11 billion in lost government worker productivity, delayed federal spending and reduced consumer demand.
It seems counterintuitive that closing roughly a quarter of the federal government actually could cost taxpayers more.
Even though shutting off several rooms at home, keeping the lights off and the thermostat settings lower, saves on the monthly electric bill, such actions don’t work when it comes to the federal government.
Some 800,000 or so federal employees who missed two paychecks during the shutdown will be compensated back pay for work that didn’t get performed. And there’s been talk of bonuses being paid to others who were required to work without pay during the five-week period. Any business leader worth his or her salt knows compensation paid for work left undone is the highest cost a business can incur.
While these folks went without pay, the economy stuttered as consumer spending declined. With hundreds of thousands of federal employees and contractors forced to tighten their belts while going without pay, the retail and service providers in the national marketplace also felt the pinch.
The CBO estimates this economic drag reduced fourth quarter 2018 gross domestic product by $3 billion. Estimates further predict the first quarter 2019 GDP will be some $8 billion in decline.
At the same time, taxes and fees that provide income for the government weren’t collected during the shutdown. According to the CBO, the 2013 16-day government shutdown caused the U.S. National Park Service to reportedly lose approximately $7 million.
Compromise and constructive leadership must occur between now and Feb. 15 to avoid another stalemate with regard to the appropriations bill. America cannot afford and should not be left to shoulder another costly shutdown.