Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
View Larger Map
I have been waiting to write about this, but when I was a missionary for my church I lived in many of the areas effected by the recent fires. I worked in San Diego county from July 1993 until June 1995, the Mission I was in was the California Carlsbad Mission. One of the areas that I served in was Ramona, I was there summer 1994. So when I saw that it was completely evacuated it made me wonder about the people there that I had worked with and the other missionaries that were there at the same time as me (Elders Terrell, Church, and Smith). Ramona was an over when I was there, it was a little less population back when I was there. It was one of the few places that reminded me of Idaho when I was there. The people were great, they were always kind even when they had no interest in our message. Another place that I have seen a lot on the news with the fires is Escondido. I was in Escondido, CA for six months January to June 1994. While I was there we had the opportunity to volunteer at a school and we went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park for a field trip with the class we worked with. Another place I served that has been effected was Fallbrook. Fallbrook was the second area I served in as a missionary (the first was Oceanside) in the fall of 1993. Fallbrook was just like Idaho, small town in the mountains. While I was there at Christmas time we helped the youth group from our church perform "Secret Santa Service" for a family by bringing them gifts and other needed items for the twelve days before Christmas. We were the delivery boys. That way the family would have no idea who the items were from. I also served in Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Juan Capistrano, Mission Viejo, and Vista. I have been thinking a lot about those I served with both that lived there and those who were missionaries, like me. I wonder how those ex-missionaries are feeling seeing the areas that they served in and the people they loved victim to this catastrophe.
What a tragedy that has come upon these people. I feel for those who have lost everything. I feel even more for those few that were not warned in advance and lost their lives in the fire and those who lost their lives fighting to save the people and structures of that area. There is a reason for everything and although we may not see it at the time the Lord has a purpose for the challenges he gives us. Our prayers are with those suffering.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
From The Idaho Statesman (10/25/2007)
As the legislative advocate for the Roman Catholic Diocese, I am not willing, nor allowed, to tell my fellow Christians how to vote. That is the job of the Holy Spirit, who speaks to us through our conscience, guiding us with a moral compass. I am not afraid to trust people to arrive at the best decision when it comes to political candidates after they have prayed and reflected on who the candidate is that most represents their faith. Apparently, a certain number of Christians feel it necessary to dictate to all of us who to vote for, thereby trumping the voice of the Holy Spirit.
A Christian certainly can vote for a Democrat. I do. I choose to vote for Democrats, not because Democrats are pro-choice and supportive of stem-cell research, but in spite of those positions. I support Democrats because they are pro-children and pro-family, seeking to end poverty and hunger. As a Christian, I vote for Democrats because they are working to end the Iraq war, which my moral compass has told me was wrong from the first minute of the invasion. I give money to the Democratic Party in Idaho because they recognize what I know; Earth is God's gift to humanity and we must protect it against the ravaging greed of big business and corporations. I vote Democrat, because I want expanded freedom for everyone in America, not just people who look like me; that includes people who are gay or lesbian. Oppression and discrimination are not a Christian value. Love of our neighbors, all of them, is.
My job as a Catholic Democrat is to speak issues to candidates. I will tell Democrat candidates who I choose to support that I want expanded reproductive health care for women, while at the same time I expect Democrats to reduce the number of abortions taking place. Consider that 75 percent of abortions take place in the context of poverty. Or, if I am concerned about the sanctity of marriage, I need to ensure that candidates support families by reducing the destructive pressures of hunger, housing insecurity and lack of health care.
When it comes to immigration, I absolutely must support the Democrats. I am taught by Jesus in the gospel to welcome the stranger. God shows me from before Jesus was born, when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, that economic and political forces work against the immigrant family, forcing them to flee from their beloved homeland to a strange place fraught with peril. When I feed the immigrant, clothe her, house her, and provide her medical care, I am doing so to Jesus. I am not instructed in the Bible to first ask for papers proving immigration status. My job as a Catholic Democrat is to help the candidate understand how to design an immigration system that is fair to both the immigrant and my country.
When I weigh all the issues of importance to me as a Christian, I absolutely must vote Democrat. I would be betraying the Holy Spirit if I did not. But that is a very personal decision between me, Jesus, and God. I would be very disappointed to learn that any Christian merely followed my example and voted as I do. Who do you vote for? Go to your knees and pray. You will figure it out. You don't need me to tell you. And you certainly do not need other Christians to tell you.Will Rainford, LMSW, Ph.D., is the legislative advocate for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Boise.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Saturday, October 06, 2007
He said it "would result" in covering children in families with incomes up to $83,000 per year, which isn't true. The Urban Institute estimated that 70 percent of children who would gain coverage are in families earning half that amount, and the bill contains no requirement for setting income eligibility caps any higher than what's in the current law. (The compromise bill that was released a few days after Bush's press conference does rescind an administration effort to block New York state from increasing its eligibility cap to that level.)
He also said the program was "meant to help poor children," when in fact Congress stated that it was meant to expand insurance coverage beyond the poor and to cover millions of "low-income" children who were well above the poverty line. Under current law most states cover children at twice or even three times the official poverty level.
The president also says Congress' expansion is a step toward government-run health care for all. It's true that some children and families with private insurance are expected to shift to the government program. But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that such a shift is relatively low considering the number of uninsured these bills would reach.
The president repeated a false charge that has been bandied about by the administration and other Republicans:
Bush: Their proposal would result in taking a program meant to help poor children and turning it into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.In fact, nothing in either the House or Senate bill would force coverage for families earning $83,000 a year. That's already possible under current law, but no state sets its cut-off that high for a family of four and the bill contains no requirement for any such increase. The Bush administration, in fact, just denied a request by New York to set its income cut-off at $82,600 for a family of four, a move New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and members of Congress from the state have vigorously protested. And Bush would retain the authority to deny similar applications under the proposed legislation. An Aug. 17 letter to state health officials from the Center on Medicare and Medicaid Services outlined new guidelines for states that would make it quite difficult for states to raise eligibility above 250 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,625 for a family of four). So Bush is simply wrong to say that the legislation "would" result in families making $83,000 a year to be eligible. It might happen in a future administration, but that would be possible without the new legislation.
In fact, the vast majority of the children who stand to gain coverage under the proposed legislation are in families making half of the figure Bush gave. A study just released by the Urban Institute estimates that 70 percent of children who are projected to benefit from either the Senate or House bills are in families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (currently $41,300 for a family of four). Our several calls to the White House press office to pinpoint exactly what the president meant by the $83k remark were not returned.
|SCHIP: Who's Eligible Now?|
|% of Federal Poverty Level||In dollars: Family of 4, 2007|
|*Hawaii and Alaska have higher official Federal Poverty Levels than the rest of the U.S.|
|Note: States that cover children through regular Medicaid in italics; Others have separate SCHIP programs|
|Source: Kaiser Family Foundation|
Bush also misstated the intent of the SCHIP program by claiming it "was meant to help poor children." That's false as well. Poor children, defined as those in families below the official federal poverty level, were already covered by Medicaid. The stated intent of Congress when it established the program in 1997 was to expand coverage beyond those who were poor to "uninsured low-income" children. And in Washington-speak, there's a significant difference between "poor" and "low-income."
Congress didn't specify exactly what it meant by "low-income" in the bill that became law or the conference report that accompanied it on final passage, and reasonable people can certainly come up with different definitions. However, if one defines "low" as meaning "lower than most families make," then there is plenty of room to expand the current SCHIP program without violating the original aim stated by Congress in 1997.
Currently, the state with the highest income cap is New Jersey, where a family of four making up to $72,275 is eligible. (See chart at left for current cut-offs for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.) That's well below the median income for a family of four in that state, which was $94,441 in 2006 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median means half of all families made less than that, and half made more. So even New Jersey's ceiling for SCHIP is significantly lower than what most families in that state bring in.
The same is true for all 10 of the jurisdictions with the highest ceilings. The median income for families of four last year was $84,472 in Hawaii, $93,821 in Connecticut, $94,017 in Maryland, $71,571 in D.C., $89,347 in Massachusetts, $63,274 in Missouri, $87,396 in New Hampshire, $74,072 in Pennsylvania, and $67,884 in Vermont. So under current law even the top 10 cover only families with income that is "low" compared to most others there.
In the news conference, the president also described Congress' SCHIP expansion as a step toward government-run health coverage.
Bush: The proposal would move millions of American children who now have private health insurance into government-run health care. Our goals should be for children who have no health insurance to be able to get private coverage, not for children who already have private health insurance to be able to get government coverage.... Their S-CHIP plan is an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.It is true that the Congressional Budget Office has projected that the House and Senate bills will cause some who recently had private coverage to sign up for SCHIP or Medicaid coverage, depending on how the state administers those programs. However, Bush is being misleading by leaving out additional details about this shift. The Congressional Budget Office director said he hasn't seen another policy proposal that would reach as great a level of the uninsured with as low of an effect on those who had private insurance.
Health care and government experts, including CBO Director Peter R. Orszag and MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, have said that when the government offers programs that target the uninsured, those programs will inevitably be used by some who already have or could have private insurance. Experts call this effect "crowd-out."
The House bill would extend coverage to a total of 7.5 million people, 5 million of whom are uninsured, while the Senate bill would reach 6.1 million, 4 million of whom are uninsured, according to CBO reports. The rest of those affected by the expansions would have private or other coverage. Those numbers give crowd-out rates of 32 percent for the House bill and 34 percent for Senate's. Orszag said of the House crowd-out effect, "given the scale of the net reduction in the uninsured, it’s pretty much as good as you’re going to get. In other words, I have not seen any other proposals to reduce the number of uninsured children by 5 million with crowd-out rates that are lower than 33 percent. Again, in the absence of a mandate on an employer, or a mandate on an individual, or a mandate on state governments, CBO does not believe you’re going to do much better than these kinds of crowd-out rates." (Our calculations show 32 percent from the CBO charts, which include numbers rounded to one decimal point.)
Orszag made those remarks at an Aug. 29 conference by The Alliance for Health Reform, where he also said that the bills included measures to minimize the crowd-out effect and that the Senate bill gave states incentives to target lower-income families. Gruber, who worked on the initial development of SCHIP, wrote in a letter to Rep. John Dingell, chairman of the energy and commerce committee, that "no public policy can perfectly target the uninsured," but that expansions like SCHIP are the most cost-effective ways of increasing health coverage.
Gruber: I have undertaken a number of analyses to compare the public sector costs of public sector expansions such as SCHIP to alternatives such as tax credits. I find that the public sector provides much more insurance coverage at a much lower cost under SCHIP than these alternatives. Tax subsidies mostly operate to "buy out the base" of insured without providing much new coverage.As for SCHIP’s current crowd-out rate, a May 2007 CBO report said that estimates vary but that the figure is “most probably” between 25 percent and 50 percent.
The president says movement of people from private to public insurance under these bills is unacceptable, which is a matter of opinion. We feel this additional information is necessary to give a full picture of the bills' effects.
After the president spoke, Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt continued to field press questions. He spoke highly of the president’s proposal to help the uninsured:
Leavitt: He made a proposal at the State of the Union that, ironically, would have -- according to the Lewin Group, would have provided insurance to 4.25 million children, children who currently do not have coverage. The bill that the President will veto will -- is represented to offer 2.6 million insurance. However, 1.2 million of those already have private insurance, and 900,000 of them already qualify.We’re not sure where the 2.6 million or 1.2 million numbers come from. As we've said, according to the CBO analyses, the House bill would reach 7.5 million people, 2.4 million of whom had private or other coverage. The Senate bill would cover 6.1 million, 2.1 million of whom had private insurance.
We do know where the 4.25 million figure comes from: According to John Shiels at the Lewin Group, the secretary simply misspoke. The Lewin Group did not analyze the effect Bush’s proposed tax refund program would have on children in particular; all Shiels could tell us with total confidence was that “more than a dozen” children would gain insurance under the plan. The group did find that Bush’s initial proposal would reduce the uninsured by 9.2 million, a disproportionate number of whom would be well above the poverty level. For instance, 38.6 percent of the uninsured with a family income of $100,000 or more per year would become newly insured, but only 3.8 percent of those making less than $10,000 would. (Lewin uses the Census' definition of a family, which doesn't differentiate based on family size.) The Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, has estimated that Bush’s proposal would lead to a net decrease of fewer than 0.5 million uninsured children.
Finally, the president’s interpretation of the SCHIP program’s effect on taxes needs some context. Bush said, “The legislation would raise taxes on working people.” Actually, what SCHIP would do is increase the federal tobacco excise tax on all tobacco products. The federal government puts a tax of 39 cents a pack on cigarettes, with all revenue going into the general treasury fund. The House bill would increase that tax by 45 cents, while the Senate would tack on 61 cents, with the revenue specifically funding the SCHIP expansion.
It is unclear what the president means by “working people.” But as the Congressional Research Service pointed out, an increased cigarette tax means the “burden falls heavily on lower income people.” Statistics reported by the American Heart Association showed that smoking is “highest among persons living below the poverty level.” Forty-six million adults in the country are smokers.
– by Lori Robertson and Jess Henig, with Brooks Jackson and Justin Bank
Update: On September 24, the Senate Finance Committee released
the text of the compromise legislation, which went on to pass both houses of Congress that week. The CBO determined that the bill would expand coverage to 5.8 million children, 3.8 million of whom are uninsured and 2 million of whom have or have access to private health insurance. That’s a crowd-out rate of 34 percent. About 79 percent of the new enrollees qualify under the existing eligibility guidelines, the CBO report said.
Here’s what would happen to New York’s request to increase its eligibility cap to 400 percent of the poverty level: The new legislation would rescind the Aug. 17 letter from HHS that required states to meet certain requirements before they could raise eligibility above 250 percent of the poverty level. Instead, HHS would issue new requirements for states seeking to increase their caps above 300 percent. After Oct. 1, 2010, states failing to meet those requirements wouldn’t get federal funds for children above that 300 percent mark (see Sec. 116 of the bill).
Also, states that meet the requirements and extend eligibility above 300 percent of the poverty level would get a reduced federal matching rate for children in families above that 300 percent threshold. States that already have a higher cap (only New Jersey) and those that were about to put one in place (only New York) would be exempt from that federal match restriction. So, New York could increase its income eligibility cap to $82,600 for a family of four for at least two years, until late 2010, as long as the state’s plan is approved by HHS. After that, to continue getting funds for children above the 300 percent level, the state would have to meet the federal government’s new guidelines. The president has a point in that the bill allows New York to increase its eligibility cap beyond what his administration was willing to permit. But with the eligibility restrictions and incentives the new legislation puts in place, it’s misleading for the president to say the bill is “turning [the program] into one that covers children in households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year.”
United States, Congressional Budget Office. "H.R. 3162, the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act." 1 Aug. 2007.
Alliance for Health Reform. "Who’s Counting? What is crowd-out, how big is it and does it matter for SCHIP?" Conference transcript. 29 Aug. 2007.
Kenney, Genevieve M.; Cook, Allison; and Pelletier, Jennifer. "SCHIP Reauthorization: How Will Low-Income Kids Benefit under House and Senate Bills?" Urban Institute. 17 Sept. 2007.
Baumrucker, Evelyne P.; Fernandez, Bernadette; et al. "Medicaid and SCHIP Provisions in H.R. 3162 and S. 1893/H.R. 976," Congressional Research Service. 15 Aug. 2007.
Sheils, John, and Randy Haught. "President Bush's Health Care Tax Deduction Proposal: Coverage, Costs and Distributional Impacts." The Lewin Group. 29 Jan. 2007.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Elder Ballard responded to the following questions:
1. Are you Christian? What is the role of Jesus Christ in your faith?
2. Do you worship Jesus Christ in your Sunday services?
3. Why do some people say you are a cult?
4. In what ways are you similar to other Christians?
5. In what ways do you differ from other Christians?
6. Was Joseph Smith a prophet? Are prophets necessary today?
7. Is there scientific proof authenticating the Book of Mormon?
8. Does the Church support political candidates? (this is the question I picked to embed)I took this chance to try embedding flash on to my blog again. I tried before but it was unsuccessful. We'll see if it works.
I know that the first amendment protects the speech exhibited in both these cases and although you may find one or the other despicable, they do have the right to say what they wish. You on the other hand do not have to listen. Make up your own mind look at facts not ranting and emotional banter. A good place to start, Factcheck.org Don't follow like sheep, lead like the person you are!