Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Thursday, November 4th, 2010.

NJ: How’s the New Governor Workin’ Out for Ya?

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It’s been a while since I’ve lived in New Jersey, although I see it frequently from the Hudson River’s other shore. And I’m really curious to know how actual New Jersey residents feel about Gov. Christie so far. ‘Cause if I still lived there, I don’t think I’d like him much.

First, he killed the Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) project, already underway, which would have provided new train tunnels under the Hudson from New Jersey to midtown Manhattan. The tunnel was considered essential to New Jersey’s future economic growth.

And commuting from New Jersey into Manhattan, which half the state seems to do every weekday, is slow, stressful, exhausting. The amount of gasoline burned as traffic creeps across the George Washington Bridge or through the Lincoln tunnel every morning and evening is incalculable. And I haven’t seen any estimates of how many people lost jobs when the project stopped.

Richard C. Leone writes for the Newark Star-Ledger that many “saw the step as a ploy to redirect New Jersey’s share of the cost of the tunnel to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, which is broke.” Normally the Transportation Trust Fund would be replenished by adjusting the state gasoline tax. But of course there is nothing more important than not raising a tax.

The essential paradox is that curtailing public-sector projects when confronting a weak economy is damaging in two ways. First, it ignores the healthy effects on the overall economy of a boost in capital spending by either the public or private sector. Infrastructure jobs tend to pay well and, of course, have a multiplier effect as those who work on such projects spend more on other goods and services.

Secondly, capital expenditures have a beneficial, long-term effect on economic growth.
Despite these factors, which are pretty much acknowledged by economists of just about every stripe, the United States is falling behind in infrastructure — and not just behind the most advanced nations. We are lagging well behind the huge capital outlays in China, for example. Of course, giving up something now in order to have more later requires a certain amount of trust in the entity making the investments.

In our case, we are experiencing billions of dollars being spent to argue the case that government can’t be trusted to do anything.

Now Christie’s balancing the state’s budget by cutting 1,200 state government jobs. And he promises to “monitor tax revenues and make adjustments if warranted.” But revenues are likely to go down because of job losses, so more layoffs will be needed.

At least Christie says (so far) he’s resisting the many calls to run for president in 2012. What a guy.

Update: The Washington senate race has been called for Patty Murray.

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Washington State Senate Race Update

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As of 7:30 this morning the Murray-Rossi Senate race in Washington is not yet called, but with 74 percent of the vote counted Murray now has about a 2 percentage point lead. David NYC of Swing State Project writes that Rossi is doing worse in some districts than he did in 2004, when he ran unsuccessfully for governor.

As a commenter to the last post pointed out, there is some dispute of NBC’s calculation that only 32 percent of “tea party” candidates won their elections. The argument is that NBC’s calculations left out a great many “tea party” candidates that won elections Tuesday.

However, I don’t think NBC should be blamed for being confused. What distinguishes a “tea party” candidate from a regular Republican candidate? About the only “cause” the teabaggers seem to agree on is that they want taxes and non-defense government spending cut, and they want “smaller” government. And this is different from other Republicans, how, exactly? The GOP has been babbling this same line for more than 30 years.

NBC’s Alexandra Moe explained which politicians were considered “tea party” candidates:

Identifying Tea Party candidates is undoubtedly inexact. Our criteria, generally, was to include anyone who has either been backed by a Tea Party group or has identified themselves as a member of the Tea Party movement. Toward the end of this cycle, however, seemingly every Republican was trying to associate themselves this way. One left off the list was Dino Rossi, despite Jim DeMint endorsing him, since Tea Party groups backed Clint Didier in the primary.

A rightie blogger lists a number of “tea party” candidates NBC left out who seem to have met NBC’s criteria and should have been included.

But it would be interesting to know which self-identified tea partiers also received the support of the Old Guard, in particular organizations associated with Karl Rove and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? These groups babble about tax cuts and small government also, but the real agenda is to sell America off in pieces to multinational corporations, outsource any job with decent pay to some third world country and render us ordinary citizens into sharecroppers on the Koch Industries plantation.

And, Florida, do you realize just how sleazy and corrupt your new tea-party-backed governor actually is? This is from something I wrote for Op Ed News last year:

Richard L. Scott was a Dallas lawyer with no background in medicine, but who specialized in hospital and health care mergers and acquisitions. In 1987, he and Richard Rainwater, a Texas investor and fund manager, each put up $125,000 to start a company called Columbia Hospital Corporation. (In the 1990s Scott and Rainwater also were partners with George W. Bush in ownership of the Texas Rangers.) In 1988, Columbia bought two hospitals in El Paso, Texas. The partners acquired more hospitals through stock purchases. In 1994, Columbia acquired Nashville-based Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), founded by the Frist family, of which former Republican Senator Bill Frist is a member.

By 1997, Scott was Chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA, then the world’s largest health care provider. Scott headed an empire of more than 340 hospitals, many other health care properties, which had annual revenues in excess of $23 billion. But that year, evidence of Medicare fraud emerged, and federal agents seized records from several Columbia/HCA locations. In July 1997, Scott was forced out by the board of directors and replaced by Thomas Frist, Jr., HCA founder and brother of Sen. Bill Frist. Columbia/HCA admitted to “systematically overcharging the government” and increasing “Medicare billings by exaggerating” illnesses, and paid $1.7 billion to settle. …

… One of Scott’s trademark tactics was to eliminate competition by buying nearby hospitals and shutting them down, so that his chain could dominate the local hospital market. He argued that this made money for his shareholders, but in many cases this angered local communities, and in some cases the Federal Trade Commission was called in to thwart Scott’s plans.

And then in 1997 the fraudulent billing practices came to light. Scott himself was never accused of a crime. However, Dan Ackman wrote for Forbes (December 14, 2000) that the seven-year federal investigation of Columbia/HCA revealed a pattern of fraud that “ran deep within HCA’s way of doing business.”

“The company admitted to systematically overcharging the government by claiming marketing costs as reimbursable, by striking illegal deals with home care agencies, and by filing false data about how hospital space was being used.

“The company increased Medicare billings by exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses they were treating. It also granted doctors partnerships in company hospitals as a kickback for the doctors referring patients to HCA. In addition, it gave doctors ‘loans’ that were never expected to be paid back, free rent, free office furniture, and free drugs from hospital pharmacies.”

Folks, that’s your “free market” health care system at work.

Good luck, Florida. You’ll need it.

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