Month: September 2011

Free citizen education forum on Urban transportation and the CRC Light Rail Project

Citizens are warmly invited to hear five national experts share research on the myths and truths behind federally funded transportation infrastructure. This is a joint regional/national event, bringing in speakers around the country from the national think tank, the American Dream Coalition.

Come to this free, half-day conference on transportation solutions, their trade-offs, how to effectively address congestion, costs and funding, efficient use of public funds, bus service systems that actually work and how enforcement has been used to alleviate crime issues often associated with transit.

Come and hear about what other communities are doing to solve urban transportation problems and how these solutions can be applied in our region.


SPEAKER TOPIC
Tiffany Couch, Washington. Forensic Accountant & Financial Investigation, Acuity Group, PLLC Forensic Accounting Update – How has $152M in Federal and State Tax Dollars been spent so far?
Wendell Cox, Illinois. Public Policy Consultant, Principal of Demographia Improving economic growth and the quality of life in the Portland-Vancouver area
Tom Rubin, California. CPA, CMA, CMC, CIA, CGFM, CFM. Consultant for major transit capital projects How Cost-Effective Are Buses and Light Rail?
John Charles, Oregon. President and CEO Cascade Policy Institute Will Transit-Oriented Development Work in Vancouver?
Karen Jaroch, Florida. Licensed Professional Engineer. Co-founder of the Tampa 912 Project How to Organize Ideas into Action
Randal O’Toole, Oregon. Cato Institute Senior Fellow, Founder of American Dream Coalition What Are the Prospects for Federal Funding of the CRC?

 

Please visit http://btgaps2-stevescare.eventbrite.com to register!

Online registration is encouraged, but not mandatory.

 

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Rubber-Tire Contempt: TriMet’s $1.5 Billion Plan to Deliver Inferior Transit Service

As a young environmental activist growing up in north Jersey in the 1960s, I took transit buses all over – into Newark, Elizabeth, and New York City. Later, as a college student in Pittsburgh, I took Greyhound across the state many times to get home.

For environmentalists, it was a badge of honor to abandon our 9 MPG autos and travel on a bus with 35-45 other passengers. The oil embargo was very real. We had odd/even license plate days for gas fill-up in 1973, so it seemed like a form of patriotism to be frugal.

Times have certainly changed. Cars have become more efficient, and chronic urban smog has permanently disappeared due to improved auto technology. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that many transit agencies are no longer content to merely provide a service to those unable or unwilling to drive in a private vehicle.

Portland is the poster child for this problem. In fact, TriMet doesn’t really care about transit service per se; the agency is obsessed with expensive trains that are supposed to recreate the way entire neighborhoods function, through “transit-oriented development.”

TriMet is so contemptuous of bus service that the agency is building massively expensive trains that simply replace cheap buses. And the replacement service is actually worse. The Milwaukie light rail line, now being built by TriMet (even though they have very little of the required funding in hand), is breathtaking in its sheer wastefulness. It will cost $205 million per mile for a train that will average 17 MPH. It will make the daily commute for current Milwaukie bus riders worse by forcing them to transfer to rail at Milwaukie. Rail will never offer express service; but there are already at least four bus routes on McLoughlin that offer a menu of local, limited-stop, and express bus routes.

Worse yet, the train will take 68 businesses and 20 residences. More than 60 mature shade trees on SW Lincoln Street near PSU are being cut down this week.

How can one government agency spend $1.5 billion for a mere 7.3 miles of train service, to provide a level of transit that is demonstrably inferior to bus service being replaced?

The answer is that TriMet is institutionally designed to fail. The agency has a monopoly on service and a monopoly on subsidies. Actual customers only account for about 25% of the agency’s operating revenue and none of the capital funds used for construction. So customers don’t really matter. TriMet does what its management wants, simply because it can.

I was down at Lincoln Street for an hour watching the trees getting cut. It was one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen a governmental agency do. The street is already served by the #17 bus. The train is simply unnecessary. Yet, for the 906-foot segment of Lincoln Street that is being wrecked, we will spend $35.2 million.

If you had $35 million to spend to improve three blocks of an urban street, how would you spend it? Not on light rail. Not if it was your own money. Not if you actually cared about the urban environment.

The Obama presidential bus only cost $1.1 million and rides on regular roads. Couldn’t we have just bought a few of those, run them up and down Lincoln Street, and saved the trees? I’m sure they would offer a much nicer ride than generic light rail cars.

The day the Portland City Council put private bus companies out of business in 1968 was a sad day in local history. Private companies could never get away with destroying a street like this or spending $1.5 billion on a pointless boondoggle.

TriMet is hopelessly corrupt. It’s time to admit that the agency is out of control and has utterly lost sight of its mission. Maybe in 2012 the legislature should consider abolishing this rogue agency, and starting fresh with a market-driven transit concept that focuses on actually serving customers with the best transit at the lowest public cost.

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Drop the Envy Card: Wealth Grows From Serving Others

The politics of envy is alive and well. Too many Americans, including President Obama, propose to “tax the rich more,” even though the top one percent of earners already pay 38% of all federal income taxes and most really do pay higher rates than the rest of us. They argue that “obscenely wealthy” people such as Bill Gates and the Walton family somehow violate the American sense of fairness.

According to these misguided people, if only the wealthy paid their “fair share” and gave a bit of their “outrageous fortunes” back, everything would be fine.

Choosing the Walton family and Bill Gates as examples of the “obscenely wealthy,” however, are especially poor choices. Their creations, Walmart and Microsoft respectively, give millions of Americans more convenience, better prices and more productivity than we ever had before. Too many of us assume wealth can only come at the expense of others. In reality, most wealth comes from meeting the needs and wants of others in the marketplace.

Some point to new data that show poverty is growing. But it isn’t growing because some become wealthy. As Robert Sheaffer put it in his book, Resentment Against Achievement, poverty is the default condition of mankind. Nobody creates poverty; it is wealth that must be created. In a free society, wealth is created by helping others. The politics of envy will leave us all worse off. It’s time to grow up, and stop blaming our problems on those who succeed.

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You’re teaching my child what? And it is costing us how much!

Join U-Choose exploring public education. Speakers will present information on the history and degradation of curriculum, sex education, censorship of children in the classroom, and parents’ rights. The impact on youth, adults and the family will be addressed. Solutions provided.

Featured Topics/Speakers:

Progressive” Education: How did we get here? How John Dewey’s vision of progressive education was implemented, resulting in the weak “dumbed down” curriculum of today.

Rob Kremer, Host of Kremer and Abrams KXL Radio 101FM, Founder and President of Oregon Education Coalition, Principal Third Century Solutions

“Dumbing Down” of America’s Youth – Is this real? See examples of the watered down teaching in math, science and English that present day students are receiving in our schools compared to a century ago.

Dr. Chana Cox, Senior Lecturer in Humanities, Lewis and Clark College

Sex “Hyper” Education Indoctrination – Human Sexuality is a far cry from the biology of reproduction. Now by law students in Kindergarten through 12 grades will be taught everything from mutual masturbation to homosexual experimentation. Discover why this is important to government educators.

Suzanne Gallagher, Business Owner, Former Candidate for State Representative, Pro-Family Activist

Political Incorrectness and Censorship – What are your rights? Learn about “viewpoint discrimination” including Anti-Christian, and what you can do to defend your right to direct your child’s education.

Herb Grey, Esq.- Alliance Defense Fund Affiliated Attorney

 

America and our children face a bleak future. Their future depends on acting now!

When: Tuesday, October 18, 6:30pm- 9:00pm

Where: Word and Spirit Church, 6140 NE Stanton Street, Portland 97213, 503-771-0022

Child Care available. RSVP with number and ages to Suzanneuchoose@gmail.com.

$5 donation welcome at door.

 

If you can help with event publicity within Portland areas, please contact

Debra Mervyn 503-819-8800 at debrauchoose@gmail.com

 

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Cascade Book Forum: The Morality of Capitalism by Dr. Tom Palmer

Cascade Policy Institute is hosting Dr. Tom Palmer, senior fellow at CATO Institute, presenting on his book, The Morality of Capitalism: How Free Markets Create Justice and Prosperity.

Click here for a sneak peak at the book and his presentation here in Portland.

Click here for the PDF flyer of the event.

RSVP to Deanne Kastine at deanne@cascadepolicy.org or 503-242-0900.

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Oregon Innovates During “The Year of School Choice”

The Wall Street Journal recently called 2011 “The Year of School Choice.” According to the July editorial:

“No fewer than 13 states have enacted school choice legislation in 2011, and 28 states have legislation pending….Louisiana enhanced its state income tax break for private school tuition; Ohio tripled the number of students eligible for school vouchers; and North Carolina passed a law letting parents of students with special needs claim a tax credit for expenses related to private school tuition and other educational services.”

It should be added that here in Oregon, our legislature passed a bill to allow open enrollment among public school districts. Starting in 2012, parents may enroll their children in another district as long as the receiving district is accepting transfers. This arrangement can promote increased enrollment in schools with empty seats while offering additional opportunities to out-of-district children.

A second bill eased enrollment restrictions for online schools. A third allows public universities and colleges to sponsor charter schools. All three bills have been signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that allowing families more freedom in educating their kids is the way of the future. In a pioneer state, Oregonians should be proud of the ways we are innovating to give students more diverse choices in education.

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A Health Clinic by Another Name…Will the Oregon Health Plan “Transformation” Work?

By Douglas A. Perednia, M.D.

Here’s a question for you. If you quietly take thousands of Oregonians hostage and then release them with great fanfare, does that make you a kidnapper or a hero? The answer, of course, depends on whether anyone remembers you kidnapped them in the first place. This happens to be exactly the scenario posed by the Oregon Health Plan’s newest innovation, the “Coordinated Care Organization,” or CCO.

CCOs are in the news because they now appear to be the state’s only strategy for saving the Oregon Health Plan (OHP). According to a recent article in The Oregonian, they are “poised to transform” health care. The CCO approach is said to “offer a glimpse of the future for the Oregon Health Plan’s 600,000 low-income and disabled people on Medicaid and Medicare.” As described in the article,

“The state budget assumes the transformed health plan will be up and running next summer—quickly enough to save $249 million in Medicaid costs in the second year of the 2011-13 biennium. If it doesn’t, the state will have to find money to fill the hole or cut Medicaid payments, already down 11 percent this year.”

Before we get too carried away with praising the solution, it’s worth recalling just how we got into this situation, who got us here, and exactly what, if anything, is “new” about CCOs.

It’s no secret that Medicaid in Oregon has been underfunded for decades. As documented by The Lund Report, depending on the contract, “…something like 60% or less of a doctor’s overhead is covered…,” and “an additional 19% cut on top of that is going to create problems with access.” Already, “[r]oughly a quarter of all primary care physicians in Oregon, and about 18% overall, refuse to accept additional Medicaid patients mainly due to low reimbursements….”

One predictable result is that large numbers of OHP patients headed to hospital emergency rooms for care. Indeed, the Oregonian article began by profiling one such patient who is now a CCO patient and advisor to the Governor’s CCO program:

“Wracked by diabetes, hypertension, asthma, spinal disease, allergies, depression and other ills, Amy Anderson felt she was near death when she found the Mid-County Health Center in 2007.

“She had lost her job and health care a year earlier and had been getting most of her health care in hospital emergency rooms. But at Mid-County in Southeast Portland, she was assigned her own team of health care providers that she saw at every visit. They got to know her; she grew comfortable with them.

“‘Any time I called, someone was there,’ says Anderson, 56. ‘I started to believe I was going to get good care.’”

That’s great, but how does the CCO do it? And what is a CCO anyway?

In basic terms, CCO is a medical clinic that has enough people, and a big enough budget, to do what any medical clinic would do if it could afford to do so: take care of its patients. Here is the Oregonian’s description:

“Each Mid-County clinic team has a doctor and family nurse practitioner, each with a clinical medical assistant; a registered nurse; a team clerical assistant; and a third clinical medical assistant to track appointments, preventative measures, prescriptions and other information for team patients.

“The team also has access to psychiatric nurse practitioners and social workers at the clinic. Team members work together in the same room and huddle twice a day….

“When a patient like Anderson shows up, the team knows her health history, her medicines she’s taking and what tests she needs. Sometimes the team will call her in for a test. She can call the team directly and often, if needed, get in to see someone on the same day.”

Doctors normally do most or all of those things for their private patients. So why don’t all doctors do this for their Medicaid patients? The answer, of course, is that they can’t. Medicaid doesn’t pay them enough to cover their basic overhead, let alone retain whole teams of social workers and administrative personnel. If it did, many doctors wouldn’t have stopped seeing Medicaid patients in the first place. Moreover, Medicaid doesn’t pay them for many of these activities (such as coordinating with other providers), at all. Adding insult to injury, Medicaid is notorious for its paperwork, administrative rules and reporting requirements. It’s not our health care providers who have failed these patients; it’s the insurance system that the government itself created.

All of which brings us back to the promised OHP transformation. Since the Oregon Health Plan’s own policies created the problem of underinsured patients who receive all of their care in emergency rooms, why should anyone expect that its new Coordinated Care Organizations will be any more successful?

It all comes down to money. CCOs are nothing particularly innovative or revolutionary. They’re just clinics with more resources than the typical clinic that accepts Medicaid patients. If the additional funding isn’t there, they will be held hostage to the same unsustainable business model that has characterized the OHP in the past.

In that event, Oregonians would do well to recall who got us into this mess in the first place.


Douglas A. Perednia, M.D. is a Portland-area physician and the author of Overhauling America’s Healthcare Machine – Stop the Bleeding and Save Trillions (Financial Times Press, 2011). He blogs at The Road to Hellth (www.roadtohellth.com). He is a guest writer for the Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

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Basic American Rights Series – Property Rights

Americans for Prosperity and the I Spy on Salem Radio Show will be co-hosting the first Basic American Rights Series on Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5:30 to 9:00pm at the Portland Airport Shilo Inn. It will also be broadcast live around the state to: Shilo Inns in Seaside, Springfield, and Klamath Falls; the China Gorge Restaurant in Hood River; and the Salem Public Library.

This first in the series will focus on property rights, which are fundamental to the American Dream, and will draw attention to how our property rights are being eroded—by legislation, regulation, and even through the more extreme elements of environmentalism.

The town-hall style event will feature three very informative property rights experts, who will each address a different problem area and what can be done to prevent the loss of one of our most essential American rights. There will also be Q&A afterward.

Tom DeWeese, a national speaker on property rights and the UN’s Agenda 21, will discuss private property rights, local implementation of Agenda 21, and how cloaking restrictions in “sustainability” impacts our rights.

Karen Budd-Falen, a land-rights attorney from Wyoming, will discuss how the Endangered Species Act has been misused and methods environmental extremists use to fund themselves at taxpayer expense—such as Debt-for-Nature swaps. Finally, Jim Huffman will bring the evening around to Oregon and will speak about our private property rights, why they’re so important, and why our Founding Fathers fought for them.

The cost is $10 to cover expenses. Due to limited seating, guests are encouraged to pre-register by going to americansforprosperity.org/Oregon or ispyonsalem.com. There will be a social hour/mixer from 5:30 to 6:30 and the main event will begin at 6:30. For more information, contact karla@ispyonsalem.com.

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Extending Unemployment Benefits: Good Intentions, Bad Results

Last Thursday, President Obama asked Congress once again to extend unemployment benefits, allowing workers to continue receiving benefits for up to almost two years. His request may be at odds with his newly proposed chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger.

During Mr. Krueger’s career as a Princeton economics professor, he wrote about the effects of unemployment insurance on the unemployed. He, along with numerous mainstream economists, wrote that unemployment insurance increases the time that workers remain unemployed. More generous benefits lead to longer periods of unemployment. Thus, a bill aimed at helping the unemployed may actually have the opposite effect.

Many economic analyses have estimated that unemployment insurance has significantly increased the unemployment rate. For example, one recent publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, conservatively estimated “[t]he extension of unemployment insurance benefits during the recent economic downturn can account for approximately 1 percentage point of the increase in the unemployment rate.”

Adding another 4% to the estimated 2012 deficit, the President’s requested extension would cost around 45 billion dollars. And what about the human cost? Is it right to delay so many workers’ reemployment? Is it right to artificially inflate unemployment? As with so many government programs, good intentions too often lead to bad results. In this case, those results can be measured in fewer jobs and in less personal dignity.

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