User-agent: * Allow: / Trenton Butcher Block: March 2010

"Our Liberties We Prize, Our Rights We Will Defend."

Commentary on national and local events from the standpoint of a Trenton city resident and state worker.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Health Care Bill Passes In Washington, a Momentous Occasion

Finally after almost a century of effort, a national health care bill was signed into law which will guarantee nearly universal access to healthcare.  (I say nearly universal, because the bill exempts the Amish and similar religious groups which provide from their members from having to purchase health insurance.  By the way, they have long been exempted from having to participate in Social Security either).

The Republicans fought the bill tooth and nail saying that it will increase the national debt to unmanagable levels. This begs the question, is the problem that the bill will increase the national debt or is it really that it will increase healthcare costs for employers by encouraging them to do what they should have been doing along - providing adequate health insurance for their workers as part of their job benefits.

What the bill does is requires that all people under 65 have a health insurance policy, either purchased individually, or through their employer.  Various incentives and sanctions are provided to see that this actually happens.  Individuals without health coverage will eventually be fined $695 per year,  Larger employers that fail to provide health coverage will be fined $2,000 per worker.  Insurance companies will no longer to refuse coverage or base rates on preexisting conditions.  Rates may only vary based on age, tobacco use, or geographic location.  Also, insurance policies can no longer contain rate caps which cause the insurance to run out when a person has an expensive catistropic condition.   The federal government will regulate policy rates, to insure that insurance companies to not use the mandatory purchase requirement to gouge customers.  Government subsidies will be offered to small businesses and low income individuals, so they can afford to by coverage.

Simple enough.  You think you are healthy and don't need insurance, pay the $650 fine with your tax return.  Nobody will bother you any more.  (This is being done to give an incentive to people to buy now rather than waiting until they come down with a serious health condition.)

Looks like Obama is a good egg and everybody should be dancing in the streets.  No, the Tea Party is threating to throw out of office anybody who voted for this "terrible" bill.  I think the real problem is that the Republican party is run be business interests who are more concerned about operating costs than they are about the man on the street.

Will the bill cost the federal government billions?  Sure.  But to say that it will cost New Jersey taxpayers extra is a matter of debate.  Because today, if an uninsured person gets sick, all they have to do is go to the emergency room and they will be treated.  The doctor and hospital get paid through Charity Care, a state program funded by state taxes.  Basically what this does is have individual taxpayers subsidize businesses that don't provide health insurance.  With national health care, some of this burden would come off state taxpayers and get passed on to employers and the federal government.

The new system will be a cheaper way to provide care to the currently uninsured.  With health insurance, they will now be able to go to private physicians that can keep records on their health histories and coordinate care, something that makes healthcare less necessary and cheaper in the long-run.  Also, private physicians charge less for office visits than the emergency room charges.

So do yourself a favor.  In the congressional elections this fall, vote out every Republican in the House and Senate.  Not one of them voted for the president's bill or the fixes that were passed a few pays latter.  It is the Republicans, not the Democrats that deserve to go.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Support Your Local Newspaper

The Internet is a wonderful invention. It allows us to be able to access all sorts of information from our computers often for free. Indeed, this blog would not be possible if it wasn't for the web.

As cool as online media access is, it is important to remember that the stories cited in this blog were for the most part originally published in newspapers. Without newspapers and their reporters, it would not be possible to obtain reliable information about most events.

Newspapers today are in financial trouble partly because too many people get all their news online and do not bother to pick up a real newspaper. I make it a point to buy several hardcopy newspapers each day.

Please keep the tradition alive. Purchace a subscription to your home town paper or buy a copy at a newstand or honor box every day. The cost is small, and you will be supporting a home-town institution.

Celling Kids For Profit

Our neighbors in Pennsylvania lead the nation in the number of private detention facilities in the nation. Leave it to two Keystone State judges to come up with a new scheme to turn state-sponsored child abuse into their own personal money-making machine.

This story appeared on on 2/24/09. Here is the link:

In February 2009, a federal court sentenced former Luzerne County President Judge mark Ciavarella and Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael Conahan for federal charges of tax fraud for accepting kickbacks from a private juvenille detention facilitity for sentencing kids to prison terms in their facility.

The corruption began in 2002 when Conahan shut down the county juvenille detention center and used money from the county budget to lease the private facility. Despite some criticism, the county commissioners approved the deal.

In exchange for sending inmates to the facility, Mid-Atlantic Youth Services Corp. paid money to the judges for sentencing youths to prison terms. Many of they youths sent to the jail committed minor infractions that would almost never result in a custodial sentence if the case went before an impartial judge. Often, youths that were given disproportionatly heavy sentences were not represented by an attorney.

The CNN article cited an example of one 14 year old youth who stole pocket change from an unlocked vehicle to buy chips and a soft drink. This first offense resulted in a 9 month jail term.

CNN quoted a report from the Philadelphia-based Juvenille Law Center which stated that about 50 percent of children who waived counsel before Judge Ciavarella were sentenced to jail terms while the Pennsylvania Juvenille Court Judges' Commission found that on the average 8.4 percent of juveniles statewide receive custodial sentences.

Imagine the opportunities New Jersey politicians and judges will get to obtain graft at our children's expense if more juvenille facilities in this state are privatized.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Privatization Kills

Before we let Governor Chirstie privatize anything, we should think long and hard about what can go wrong.

Most of the time, the worst things that can result are overpaying the private company and fraud from paying for services not provided.  Or perhaps getting lousy service from poorly trained, screened and compensated private employees.

However, sometimes the consequences are worse.....much worse.

Like the case of disabled teenager Danieal Kelly, 14 who was starved to death by her caregivers who were supposed to be supervised by social workers from now-defunct MultiEthnic Behavioral Health, Inc. , a company that was contracted by the Philadelphia Human Services Commission to provide caseworkers that monitor at-risk children.

A federal jury in Philadelphia recently convicted company co-founders Mickal Kamauvaka and Solomon Manamela and former caseworkers Julius Juma Murray and Miriam Coulebaly of conspiracy, lying to federal agents and multiple counts of healthcare fraud.

prosecutors say the company defrauded the city of millions of dollars by not visiting needy families and falsifying records to show home visits were made that never occurred.

For a link to this article which appears on 

Charging to park in the employee parking lot is just plain mean

An article appeared in the Trenton Times on Friday which indicated that Governor Chris Christie created a task force to explore privatization of various state government functions.  The governor stated that while he is not sure of  everything he intends to privatize, one thing he is sure he wants to do is to make state workers pay to use the parking lots surrounding government office buildings in Trenton.   To read this article, click on the following link:


He wants to hire a private company to operate the parking lots and collect the fees.

May I ask, what purpose will this serve?

First, the private company will not take the deal for free.  It will want to take a  cut of what is collected as a profit.  Currently there has been much controversy about how state government workers are overpaid and receive excessive benefits.  It is implied in many articles that have appeared in newspapers across the state that excessive compensation is one of the main causes of the state budget deficit and is an important factor in driving up taxes.

Even it this is true, how does it help matters to enter into a costly contract with a private company so it can siphon off tax dollars that could be used to provide useful services to the public.  Instead, the money would be used to enrich a private company, which may be from out of state.  Great!  Let's send our tax dollars off to some company in California or Alaska or somewhere.  That's really going to benefit us.

Additionally, since parking in the state's lots has always been free, charging for it now would amount to a pay cut for government workers.  All right, you might be some right wing type that thinks government workers need a pay cut, but what that means is that your neighbors will now have less money to spend at the supermarket, the local restaurant, bowling alley, car dealer or other local businesses.  Worker paychecks don't just disappear into some black hole, but rather are spent at private businesses across the region which helps generate jobs and economic activity that benefits everyone.

One other thing.  Charging for parking will effectively force state workers to pay the state so they can get to work.  Since most state workers don't live within walking distance, they would have no alternative but to either pay to park the car in the privatized lot or take public transportation to work.  And who operates the public transportation here?  None other than NJ Transit, a state agency.  

So what you would be doing is creating a situation akin to a company town, where workers give their pay checks back to the factory owner who owns all the stores and houses in the town.   The factory barons of old got their workers for the cost of food and housing.  The governor wants to get a cut out of his workers either for bus or train fare or for parking fees.

Company towns for the most part don't exist anymore because we consider them unfair, just like we consider sharecropping, and peonage unfair.

Although making government workers shell out $50 or so per week to park at work may not rise to the same level of exploitation  as that of sharecroppers by a southern planter, it is certainly the same type of thing.

After all, who out there has to pay to park in the factory or office park parking lot?  My guess is practically no one.

Go ahead Gov!  Make my day and shoot your foot off with this one.