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Katy Burns

Katy Burns: Take the money and run!

Senate President Peter Bragdon, presumably speaking on behalf of his Republican cohorts, has grave misgivings about accepting the $2.5 billion the feds want to give New Hampshire to expand Medicaid to cover uninsured Granite Staters.

But he might, he said, be open to “a New Hampshire solution.”

Peter, Peter
. . . surely you know that taking the money – any money, from anywhere, as long as it’s not from our pockets – is the “New Hampshire solution.”

And you, Peter, are old enough to remember this. If only you and your fellow GOP politicians, both here and elsewhere, weren’t afflicted with what has clearly become a downright pathological hatred of virtually anything even remotely connected with Barack Obama and his administration. Especially that dread demon “Obamacare.”

You are losing your perspective, your ability to keep your eye on the main issue: Getting the money.

As a state, we darned near invented the art of sponging off others.

For a glaring, 800-pound-gorilla-in-the-room example of our unparalleled shamelessness in grabbing the dough, look no further than what folks call Mediscam. That’s the wonderfully complicated scheme, concocted under Gov. Judd Gregg, for siphoning multitudes of millions of dollars from Medicaid – yeah, the same program Bragdon is shying from now – and throwing them into the state’s general fund to balance the budget.

That went on for a number of years – and was emulated by a number of other states – even as the feds tightened the screws and made the larceny less lucrative. Now, although Mediscam itself has technically ended, we still make a bundle from its remnants.

But if Mediscam – which one writer cheerfully called “wholesale embezzlement” – was particularly egregiously larcenous, we are ready, willing and quite able to snatch any other federal money that’s

out there. That includes but is hardly limited to the Medicaid money we already get, plus funds for education, transportation and community development, and a whole alphabet soup’s worth of targeted grants for any of worthwhile projects.

And we certainly lapped up every cent we could from the Obama administration’s stimulus act – which so many New Hampshire Republicans deride to this day, even as they ride on roads repaired by stimulus money.

Of course, we don’t stop with picking the federal pocket. We waste no opportunity to exploit the innocent souls who venture across our borders. We pioneered the state lottery, in part to extract money from those passing through. We specialize in peddling booze and butts to outlanders. For heaven’s sake, we put massive liquor emporia on our borders and our interstate highways! I don’t think any of the other 49 states do that.

I’m not sure exactly when New Hampshire’s addiction to others’ money began. It might have been when a 19th century governor gazed out on a state of rock-strewn hills increasingly dotted with vacant farms and old houses as younger generations here heeded the siren call from further west (good soil, no rocks!) and skedaddled to the fertile valleys of Ohio and beyond.

And so the state began aggressively advertising the availability of “country retreats” among the moneyed class in eastern metropolises. At the same time, we had the rise of the great hotels and resorts on our mountains and lakes. All were designed to separate city folks from their money and replenish various New Hampshire coffers.

We’ve been doing that ever since. And we’re eager to expand ways to take others’ money. Witness our recurring attempts to finance our schools, highways and heaven knows what else by siphoning cash from outsiders with high-stakes gambling, which offers a real free lunch to high income inhabitants who don’t gamble. It is a brilliant idea, even if it so far hasn’t worked.

And our whole first-in-the-nation primary is not only a noble exercise in democracy but, perhaps even more importantly, a dandy way to make our state’s cash registers ring big time. Even if they don’t, technically, ring anymore.

But my favorite New Hampshire scheme to make others pay for our government is the commuter income tax. You never heard of it? Well, now you will. In the early 1970s our lawmakers – overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly anti-income tax (for us) – had a brilliant idea. They would tax the income of people from other states! At least if those people were so unfortunate as to work in the Granite State. And so they enacted a 4 percent income tax on said sorry souls.

Really. I am not making this up. And it stood until 1975 when the U.S. Supreme Court told us that we were little more than pickpockets and we had to cut it out. Okay, their language was a little more judicial, but you get the idea.

There are those eager for Medicaid expansion who think they can shame the obstinate senators with pathetic tales of sick people choosing between medicine and food. These bleeding hearts are flooding newspapers with letters pointing out that expansion means some 58,000 Granite Staters will finally have the medical coverage so many desperately need at almost no cost to the state. So far, though, it’s not working, at least not with our well-off senators, who are, after all, among the fortunate who can afford to hold an office that pays $100 a year and who likely have their own health insurance.

So I suggest that Medicaid expansion’s supporters turn to a different tactic: Simply say that this refusal to take federal money – big-time money, offered by a federal government to which we are donors rather than recipients, with others reaping the benefits of our taxes – is dumb. And it is most assuredly not the New Hampshire tradition.

As that famed philosopher and cinema d’auteur Woody Allen once advised: Senators, just take the money. And run!

(“Monitor” columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)

Legacy Comments23

The Harvard study you cite has been debunked by pretty much everybody except the folks who are into putting out false information to the folks who think the media tells them the truth. That study has been ripped for all the methods they used in it. The study included bankrupttcies of folks who had less than 1000 in medical bills that have insurance. No mention of their credit card debt, addictions etc. If you were out of work for two weeks that qualified as medical bankruptcy, as did losing a spouse. Check Canada's bankrupt stats. Why such an old survey also? Warren and her cohorts are activists for a group that has a goal of single pay health care, and they have the nerve to state in page one of the survey that it is unbiased.

Check Canada's stats? Let's do. This post makes hash of the Fraser Institute's "study" (in fact, Fraser is the Canadian equivalent of the Heartland Institute--it doesn't do facts, it lets ideology determine "facts". An accurate accounting shows the U.S. rate is about twice as high as Canada's. http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/2009/07/highly-questionable-medical-bankruptcy-figures-from-fraser-institute.html

Basically Bruce you are stating that behavior can be mandated. It cannot. If it could every person in poverty would be lifted out of it, a woman would make sure she protected herself and used BC, a parent would go to the library and get books to help their kid read better who is struggling, and criminals would obey the laws. Folks who have health care cannot be counted on to go to the doctor's office instead of the emergency room, anymore than they can be counted on to change their diet, or stop bad habits. The idea that laws will change the way folks behave is pretty much proven to be false at best. Otherwise, it would be that the places that have strictest gun laws would have less crime, and everybody that does now have access to health care would practice healthy living. Face it Bruce, you can enact as many laws as you like, but they will not change behavior.

There you go again.... You've just dismissed out of hand over 100 years of public healthcare measures. Essentially you're saying the poor won't seek better healthcare.They can't act in their own self-interest. Why? Because they're too stupid? Too selfish? Too lazy? All of the above? What demeaning nonsense. That's your argument against universal coverage: the claim that people newly covered will still use the emergency room rather than begin to seek preventive care? And your evidence is? The facts from other nations with universal coverage tell a different story: of better outcomes, better infant mortality rates, longer lifespans, fewer bankruptcies. And those in this country with regular access to preventive care have better outcomes, as well. Following your argument to its logical conclusion, why should we bother with public health measures at all, if the poor won't use them? Short answer: it's in everybody's interest, to make a better health care system for all Americans. That's why we vaccinate, for example. We're all in this together--remember "e pluribus unum"? Oops, I forgot, it's fashionable on the right to disparage any and all notions of the "public good". Fortunately for many of us, previous generations didn't have that attitude.

Intresting article in the Boston Globe today about Oregon. Yes I read liberal and conservative papers to get both sides. Orgeon 3 years ao had a surplus so it allowed them to provide a lottery for 10,000 folks to get on medicaid. That provided a chance to to see how it worked. The results were not what was expected. They showed that health care costs for the state actually went up 35%, folks stilled used the emegency room as opposed to doctor visits, and no change in overall wellness in regards to obesity, heart attacks, cholsterol etc. The theory was that if it is free, just go to the emergency room anyways, because it is more convient and your not paying for it. But being the globe, the article said the benefit was that folks who got the medicaid were less depressed. So of course the article said that not being depressed overided what health care for everyone should be about. It ws a typical Globe article. They did not say the research was not good, they just stated that not being depressed is worth the cost of Obamacare so folks will be happier. So from what this article states, the only plus for Obamacare is that it is an antidpressant.

It wasn't the Globe article that made the claim about improved mental health, it was a surprise finding of the study. Therefore it certainly merited reporting. Despite your cavalier dismissal, this finding is important: reduced stress levels make for better mental health. Our mental health care system is under increased scrutiny in the wake of episodes like the Newtown shootings. The uninsured and the under-insured may live under constant stress. Half of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills. it makes sense that universal coverage would help alleviate that source of stress. As for improved physical health, it seems logical that following the Oregon health lottery winners for longer than 2 years will reveal health benefits that inevitably follow when preventive and early intervention practices are more widely available.

The Newtown shooting was done by a person who had access to mental health care,. he came from a wealthy family. His sickness had nothing to do with financial stress. The half of all bankruptcies claim from the Harvard Study of 2005 has been proven to be filled with questionable results. Check poltifact, fact check.org and many other articles on this. No surprise Elizabeth Warren was on that Harvard group that did the survey. Ya think she might just be a little biased? Most folks know that bankruptcies are due to overspending. addictions, poor financial management, divorce, etc. for the most part.

In the case of the Newtown shooting, we had an irresponsible gun owner. The mother did not keep her family's safely guns under lock and key, nor store the ammo separately. But gun rights absolutists can't have it both ways: they are responsible for the safe storage and proper use of their weapons--including keeping access away from children--and keeping their guns out of the hands of those who would mis-use them, whether for purposes of homicide or suicide. Blaming the mental health system, but refusing to acknowledge that it is inadequate to the task for which it was designed--the Newtown shooter might have been better served in a residential program--is a cop-out. The study to which you refer would seem to argue that the ACA would be step in the right direction in addressing mental health issues and gun violence.

"Half of all personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills."...false. Thats it. False. Not true.

Bruce's statement was inartful, but the underlying truth is even worse. Over 60% of personal bankruptcies involve illness, indirectly as in loss of wages or loss of job, or directly due to medical bills. Try as the usual suspects try to mask the facts, the facts speak pretty loudly. America's health care "system" produces not only inferior health outcomes; it creates financial effects on families that range from uncertainty to disaster.

"A group of experts at U.C. Davis, not precisely a hive of right-wingers, demonstrated that the correct figure was about 5 percent of all bankruptcies. This did not, of course, stop Obamacare advocates and the “news” media from using the 54 percent figure."

Ah, the dead certainty of the trolling ideologue....who stamps her feet and wishes it so. You can read the study here and decide for yourself. But no matter whether the % is 35%, 50%, or higher still, the simple fact is that bankruptcies in the U.S due to medical bills are far higher than in other nations. That is a national scandal--or should be. http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/petrie-flom/workshop/pdf/warren.pdf

Reply to sail below: You've chosen the outlier, and accepted it as the "correct figure" only because it conforms to your previously held opinion on the topic. There are numerous studies that show the rate to be far higher, even if one discounts the Warren study's findings. What cannot be denied is that medical bankruptcies in the U.S. are far higher than in other advanced democracies. This post, linked below, makes a solid case that our rate is nearly twice that of Canada, which is in 2nd place in the rankings. http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/2009/07/highly-questionable-medical-bankruptcy-figures-from-fraser-institute.html

Katy's solution is actually the problem. Liberals always choose the Santa Clause option

It is called "what is yours is yours and mine too". They believe that others "have theirs" but progressive policies are the core reason why those complaining don't "have theirs"!

One more straw man post when the facts on the topic can't be disputed.

I agree Van. You have to wonder why someone who lives in NH would want to make it a state like MA or CA. You also have to wonder why she cannot be realistic when judging how this state is run. She never states the obvious on how Liberal states are fairing employment wise, poverty wise etc as compared to NH. She also finds it very difficult to find anything positive about NH even though our state gets good rankings on many levels, crime wsie, unemployment, places to retire etc. I guess she is just a person who enjoys complaing about where she lives, instead of moving to a state that best suits her.

No, this is simply a "holier than thou" attitude. On those rankings, she simply excuses the statistics away as if there were misbegotten but takes other statistics which prove her point and draws conclusions favorable with tax, spend, handout, dependency policies.

Don't forget NH consistently ranks in the top 10 nationwide in quality of education........ However "mediscam" was pure blatant thievery. Nothing like using our tax dollars to balance the NH budget and then biting the hand that feeds by extolling the evils of Gov't funding.

“As a state, we darned near invented the art of sponging off others.” Katy your disdain, for the state of NH spews with every sentence you write. If you don’t like it here why don’t you go back to the People’s Republic of Where ever you came from. Liberals states are by far the biggest sponges of our taxpayers’ dollars but you have a double standard. Just to let you know we don’t hate Obama we are intelligent and we recognize he is a huge failure and his policies are devastating to America. I would love to share a beer with Barack in the Oval Office but I’m a just a middle class peon to Obama he has better things to do like party with the rich and famous elite. Also I don’t think Obama is bad at everything. He is an exceptional liar, his ego is through the roof, and he can read a teleprompter like no one else,

Mediscam is simply one example of NH's "sponging off others". NH's entire high tech industry is the result of parasitizing the post-war high tech industries that flourished inside the Mass Rt. 128 beltway during the Cold War. Said industries--Raytheon, etc. were the direct beneficiaries of federal funding for basic and applied research--apparently anathema to conservative libertarians: it's now called "picking winners and losers", and distorts the "marketplace".

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. IKE

Ah, another responsive non-response from one of the trolling Carp Per Diem Granite Grokers. It might be GWTW's first ever acknowledgement that such a complex ever existed. Any port in a storm though, when it comes to posting.

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