May 11, 2017

Mother's Day action to protect health care

With the fate of millions up in the air with the attempted repeal of the Affordable  Care Act, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and allies are organizing Mother's Day Medicaid Awareness events around the state:

Facebook Event Pages:



There are also postcards (here and here) addressed to Senator Capito (R-WV. If you can't make it, feel free to print and send to these office locations (DC and local recommended) or just send an email.

Senator Capito's vote and influence will be critical to preserving and protecting Medicaid and other health care gains. Please be respectful but clear about your opposition to efforts to weaken health care coverage for West Virginians.

(Note: it's fitting that WV should act at this time since the Mother's Day holiday was born right here.)

May 09, 2017

A birthday to remember

I have long been fascinated by the life and death of John Brown, who was like a monkey wrench thrown by God into the machinery of a sinful slave-holding society. He was a man who lost every battle and major effort of his life yet succeeded after his death in his greatest objective.

I've blogged about Brown here over and over through the years, usually around the time of his raid (October) or his hanging (December).

How's this for historical irony: his trial and execution took part in a part of the state of Virginia that would soon become West Virginia, in large part as a result of a chain of events Brown started.

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I realized that he was born on this date 217 years ago.

So once again, here's an excerpt from his last speech, given while on trial for his life:

Had I interfered in the manner which I behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends, — either father, mother, brother, sister, wife, or children, or any of that class, — and suffered and sacrificed what I have in this interference, it would have been all right; and every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
This court acknowledges, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed here which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament. That teaches me that all thing whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me further, to “remember them that are in bonds as bound with them.” I endeavored to act upon that instruction. I say, I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done — as I have always freely admitted I have done — in behalf of his despised poor, was not wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments, — I submit; so let it be done!

May 07, 2017

Making sense where there isn't a lot

If you've been trying to make sense of the budget mess in the state capitol, good luck. Here are a couple of news articles that lay out the basics, one from MetroNews and one from the Gazette-Mail. Short version: it's a mess and there's a lot at stake.

Here's my take on it, as published in a Gazette op-ed this week: 

Gov. Jim Justice seems confident that a deal on the state budget is within reach, having told those attending a news conference, “I think we’re on a pathway to pass a budget that’s going to be really special.”

Of course, things could be “special” in all kinds of ways.

I really appreciate the governor’s sustained effort on behalf of a budget that benefits all West Virginians and doesn’t throw any of us under the bus (not to mention the fact that he raised the bar significantly on any and all future news conferences involving visual props).

While I understand the desire to reach a deal with the Republican Legislature, I hope the result isn’t a “compromise” that would hurt working families while giving a tax cut to the wealthy and causing more serious fiscal problems down the road.

Some elements of a proposed “compromise” proposal now being discussed are pretty ominous. These include major cuts to the state’s income tax, which is the only tax based on the ability to pay; increases in regressive consumer taxes; and the promise of long-term and ongoing budget deficits that could further slash the things we need to thrive in the years to come.

As Brad McElhinny reported for Metro News, the proposed compromise would “raise revenue up to $50 million for the coming fiscal year but cut revenue by $170 million each of the following two years, an analysis says.”

An assessment by Mark Muchow, deputy secretary of the Department of Revenue, estimates that, by 2020, this will cause a revenue decline of $220 million due to income tax cuts. This would come on top of year after year of major budget cuts.

On top of that, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the proposed compromise would raise taxes for the bottom 80 percent of West Virginia households, while cutting them for the wealthiest 20. The biggest winners would be the wealthiest 1 percent, who would see a cut of over $3,700.

This comes at a time when revenue increases are needed for the things we value most: schools, higher education, infrastructure, kids, seniors, veterans, parks, recreation, etc.

It’s one thing to raise revenue to maintain our quality of life, but making the tax system more unfair to low-income families in order to give yet another break to those who don’t need it is just wrong.

As Sean O’Leary, from the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy, recently tweeted, “If WV is going to increase taxes on working families, it should be for investing in schools, roads. Not to pay for tax cuts on the wealthy.”

What West Virginia needs is a compromise that doesn’t compromise our future.