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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for April 2011

April 25 thread

Open discussion. Put your thoughts here.

Who says legislators aren’t funny?

Oregon lawmakers work song lyrics into floor speeches. Then produce this video.




Does art enjoy immortality?

If you haven't read this morning's front-page story about an Expo-vintage sculpture that's apparently destined for removal from Riverfront Park, here's a link.

It makes me wonder. When we place a value on public art and urge its proliferation, we often have debates about its merits.  Many, many adornments on our municipal, school and state institutions face enduring criticism,  but they simply become part of the landscape, beloved by some, despised by others, unnoticed by many.

 A huge debate occurred several years ago in Olympia over a set of abstract murals that depicted the 12 labors of Hercules. They were commissioned for the gallery of the House of Representatives but provoked so much protest they eventually were taken back down.  That was an exception. For the most part, we assume that art, once in place, is to be there forever.

The piece that is featured in today's paper is feared to be deteriorating to the point it poses a risk to children who clamber over it.  Even so, there is controversy, partly out of respect for the artist who created it.

To my unsophisticated eye, it's a dated and not particularly inspiring sculpture.  But that's just one beholder's opinion.  The broader question is whether we're willing to accept that art might have a natural lifespan.  At some time, at least some of it should be removed and, OK, thrown away.  Or should we be asking ourselves a standard question when making decisions about public art: Are we dedicating ourselves to preserving this piece forever?

Abortion and Idaho

Here is our view.

What this bill really represents is an effort to circumvent the standard of fetus viability established in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which is generally around 22 to 24 weeks. Resetting the point where states could intervene to 20 weeks would have prevented six abortions in Idaho in 2009. But this isn’t about stopping those rare occurrences; it’s about establishing an earlier entry point so that government can limit a pregnant woman’s right to make a highly personal decision. From there, other strategies can be employed to make abortion even more restrictive or outright illegal.


Time to cut taxes?

1. Should Olympia and Boise cut taxes as they work on filling their respective budget holes?

2. Should Congress cut taxes as it works on solutions to the debt and deficit?

3. Should households facing large bills decide to bring in less money?

Higher education cost is, well, higher…but you knew that

Despite the television advertising campaign you've seen, bemoaning the low rate of Idaho high school graduates who seek further learning, the Idaho Legislature's commitment to higher education is dropping sharply — something like $64 million from four years ago.  (The TV ads for the “Go on” campaign are courtesy of the Albertsons Foundation, by the way.)

Mark Browning, the communications guy for the Idaho State Board of Education, shared that information when he stopped by today for a quick, informal update on the financial outlook for his state's colleges and universities.  As with other states, it isn't pretty.

Demand is up, both for undergraduate and graduate programs. A lot of the applications are coming from Californians whose higher out-of-state tuition helps foot the in-state students' bill.  California has capped enrollment in its institutions.

Idaho's $5,500 tuition (it will go up after the state board meets April 20 and 21 in Moscow) is relatively low, but Idaho's personal income levels are too.  Looking at the ratios, Browning puts it this way.  For an average family of four, enrolling a youngster in an Idaho University requires a higher financial commitment than qualifying for a mortgage.

State and federal student aid programs are retrenching, meaning the pattern of college graduates entering the work force — make that the work search force — with a mountain of debt to pay off is not about to change soon.

Shut down the govt. — yes or no?

Campaign for Liberty says if the cuts aren't deep enough, shut down government.

House Republican leaders offer these cuts.

Nobody is following the deficit commission, though Dems tout that work on the tax side, and Republicans tout that work on the spending cuts side.

So, shut down government and don't raise the debt ceiling? Are those viable options? Well, it would balance the budget. But the economy would sure be a mess … a “financial disaster”, says Speaker Boehner.

Then again, “Most tea party Republicans, led by the example of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-SC, believe the debt ceiling should remain in place and let the world's market rectify the problem.”

A mid-January poll, has a strong majority of Americans saying, don't raise the debt ceiling. Wonder if they're aware of the ramifications?

In so doing, the federal government, unable to secure loans with which to pay the accumulating debt (read: pay its bills), will default on at least part of its loans. The problem then becomes one of markets. Defaulting on loans devalues a nation's currency, damages its trade standing. In effect, defaulting on loans would cause stocks to plummet, investor nations to lose confidence and call in loans, force nations to use other currencies other than the dollar as their backup currency, and generally wreck the American economy (and perhaps the world economy as well) and trade status.

Smart Bombs: Price is Right

My Sunday column. Comment here.

From the comments thus far posted after the column, some points:

1. Yes, third-party payers drive up costs. I've yet to see the “free market solution” that drives up access. Costs are lower — much lower — in other countries with universal access. None of them have free-market systems. Most of the reforms I've seen retain the third-party system (you get coverage from employer, who gets it from insurers. They make deals on what will be covered). Government tax policy drives this system, yet it has avoided the moniker “government run.” Drop the tax break and see how fast your employer drops your coverage.

2. Costs are going up because the boomers are getting old. Surely, that's part of it, especially as it relates to Medicare. But costs were going up before they reached that age. Why? Those same forces remain in place with the repeal of reform. In time, this boomer bow wave will pass. Think prices will go down at that point?




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