Pre-debate excitement soars
by Kathleen Parker
August 05, 2015 01:00 AM | 23 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
No doubt you have butterflies just thinking about Thursday’s first GOP debate. I know I do. Center stage will be the man who needs no further introduction. And the big topic will be — are you ready for it? — the Affordable Care Act. Can you hardly wait? I know I can’t. Any fresh opportunity to talk about repealing and replacing Obamacare is like dipping into a warm bath. Toss in a breathtaking view and the smell of fresh-cut grass and — pinch me. But didn’t we just do this not long ago? With two Supreme Court rulings in favor of the ACA and five years of entrenchment, can there really be anything more to say? You bet. In fact, you can say that only 30 percent of enrollees in Obamacare are satisfied, according to a recent survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. And Donald Trump had this to say to CNN’s Dana Bash: “Repeal and replace with something terrific.” Well, that’s helpful. Because all along we’ve wondered what Republicans would replace the ACA with, exactly. This was quintessential Trump — and is the secret to his success. He’ll do GREAT things, TERRIFIC things! Everybody LOVES him. Because he’s the GREATEST! He says such things so often with such certitude that people begin to believe him — because it just feels so GREAT to be so POSITIVE and, yes, yes, yes! We’ll have what he’s having. But is America ready to take him seriously? If some have found his can-do attitude contagious, others may be awaiting further policy illumination during Thursday night’s debate. Don’t count on it. It seems highly unlikely that Trump has binders full of policies. Even better, he has people. He has fellow billionaire and business magnate Carl Icahn, for instance. “I’d say Carl, congratulations, handle China. I’d get other guys like Carl. I’d say, good luck, here’s Japan. Believe me, we will do so well. We will make so much.” Terrific! It’s not clear yet whom he’d tap to “handle” Obamacare, but for a man consistently focused on extracting the United States from its $18.6 trillion debt (year-end estimate), returning the nation’s health care to a competitive, free market model is on his To-Do list. As well as of every single Republican candidate. Cutting the debt means cutting spending, which brings us back to the ACA, which, despite its goal of reducing costs, hasn’t. In fact, costs are rising faster than inflation, thanks in part to a large, aging population — and the simple fact that more is being done. Meanwhile, insurance rates, which President Obama promised would decrease by $2,500 per year, are poised to spike by as much as 20 percent to 40 percent in 2016. It turns out that people were sicker than anticipated. But is repeal-and-replace really an option? The disruption across the board would be significant, says Dr. Delos Cosgrove, CEO of The Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove will join me Wednesday in Cleveland for a pre-debate, Washington Post panel I’m moderating about the ACA in 2016. Other panelists are Michael Carvin, the plaintiff’s attorney who argued both challenges to the ACA before the U.S. Supreme Court; and lawyer and Republican political consultant Benjamin Ginsberg. The program, including two other panels, will be live-streamed on the Washington Post website beginning at 6 p.m. Although Cosgrove has adapted his clinic to the ACA and cites overall improvements in terms of health care, his diagnosis and prognosis doesn’t make one race to peal the bells. Health care’s total bill will continue to rise, he predicts, and there are only two ways to control cost: Efficiency of care, which has been a major thrust of the ACA; and a decrease in the incidence of chronic disease such as cancer, diabetes and obesity. But prevention requires behavior modification on a massive scale, doesn’t it? Yes, says Cosgrove, and “the private sector will have to lead the way by pushing people into wellness.” His clinic, for example, doesn’t hire smokers, which has had an influence on the community, where smoking has decreased. There may be other confounding factors that led to this decrease, but you get his point. We’re talking about living healthier lives to avoid disease so that our health care and insurance costs will go down or at least stabilize. This sounds rational but not quick. And it doesn’t consider the confounding-est factor of all — human beings. Since people seem unable to resist deliciousness, how do you get them to eat healthier — and less? Tune in for answers. I’ll be terrific. Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.
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No Need for Cobb Police to Change Tactics
August 05, 2015 12:58 AM | 38 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Would Cobb police be more effective if they did away with most or all of their undercover activities? No, although one of the county’s five commissioners seems to be pushing for them to do so. Southwest Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid was the subject of an unfortunate incident recently. Police staking a motel parking lot where a series of motor-vehicle thefts had taken place tailed her SUV as it left the lot after a late-night study session for the upcoming state bar exam. An unmarked police car with tinted windows followed her closely while trying to read her license plate, then broke off after determining it belonged to the commissioner. Cupid was understandably rattled, but unfortunately, reacted by suggesting that she would have been treated differently if she was white and/or driving in other parts of the county. As noted in this space last week, her allegations of racist, intimidating behavior by the Cobb police were unfounded, absent any other evidence. Cobb residents deserve better from those they elect to public office — and so do the men and women of the county police, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to protect the public. Cupid has hired Decatur-based PR spokesman Bill Crane to talk for her in connection with the incident, and he says she questions why the police would be using unmarked cars as part of the stakeout operation at the hotel just off Six Flags Drive. Cupid/Crane argue marked cars would result in a visible police presence that would in itself deter criminals. That’s true — but only to a point. The presence of uniformed officers is usually reassuring to law-abiding citizens, whatever the circumstance. A car thief, on the other hand, who sees a uniformed officer or marked car is likely just to drive a bit farther down the road to the next motel, or next shopping center, or what have you, and do his dirty work there. In other words, the officers and marked cars are not so much stopping crime as they are sending it down the road. What’s needed is what the Cobb — and most other — police departments have now: a blend of marked and unmarked vehicles, a mix of uniformed and plainclothes officers, a blend of “street cops” and detectives. Rather than all of one or all of the other, the mixture of approaches results in the most effective way of protecting the public. In light of that, we see no reason for the Cobb Police Department to alter its tactics, aside from whatever changes its leaders feel might result in more effective results.
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Building BRT would put Cobb taxpayers in even deeper hole
August 05, 2015 12:58 AM | 12 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR: The proposed BRT line for Cobb Parkway is forecast to cost almost $500 million to construct and will require $9 million per year for Operation & Maintenance. These numbers are thrown around as though we fully comprehend them. I’ve tried to recast these numbers in terms that might be more understandable. The $500 million for construction is often dismissed with comments about federal funding. My best understanding is that federal funding, if available at all, might cover 50 percent of the project. The remainder would be the responsibility of Cobb County. Since Cobb County has no piggy bank of that dimension, I’m betting the county would have to borrow $250 million through a bond issue. A quick check with an online calculator tells me $250 million borrowed at 5 percent for 30 years will require roughly $16.5 million per year for debt service. Debt service of $16.5 million added to $9 million per year for O&M brings the county’s annual need to $25.5 million for the BRT. For comparison, the county’s contribution on the stadium bond debt is roughly $19 million annually. Put the two together and we have $44.5 million each year for 30 years of new obligations for Cobb County taxpayers. To gauge the magnitude of $44.5 million, we can look at the county’s budget document. The total revenue from property taxes for 2015 is $209,983,723. The commitment for the stadium and BRT together would be 21.2 percent of the 2015 tax collections. It should be obvious that something in the current budget has to go, or more revenue will be needed. Yes, it’s true that there is new revenue from the new tax in “Special District II” around the stadium, the new $3-a-night hotel “fee” and the new rental car tax. Except for the rental car tax, I believe these taxes are questionable at best for legality. One lawsuit and they will go away. At least some of that revenue is already committed to the “Circulator” service and the bridge across I-285. It’s also true that some revenue will come from the fare box in a BRT system but I am not counting that because it is traditionally very small. It must also be noted that millions will be spent for buses. It is unclear whether the buses are included in estimates for the cost of BRT. Even if the $500 million includes a full complement of new buses, the service life of buses is only about 10 years. A new bus fleet for BRT will be needed at year 10, again at year 20 and again at year 30. Look all around the United States and you will find numerous examples of state and local governments that are in trouble financially. Examples include Illinois, California and the city of Chicago. At the root of their troubles are bond debt and other long term obligations. Invariably, those with the biggest problems are already taxed to high levels. Cobb County has recently made the leap from virtually no debt to significant debt for the stadium. Let’s not borrow into a deeper hole for BRT. Larry Savage Marietta
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Marietta exit beautification project should be extended
August 05, 2015 12:57 AM | 12 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DEAR EDITOR: Re: July 30 MDJ editorial, “Gussying Up Gateways” Interesting timing of the editorial. Just two weeks ago, I drove on Delk Road from Highway 41 past I-75 — in both directions. I was disappointed with the “landscaping” on the sides and median. I worked in that area 20 years ago, and sad to say nothing has been done to improve the area. I applaud the commitment to improve the exits, but the effort needs to include Delk all the way to at least Highway 41 / Cobb Parkway (including that interchange) to truly make the Marietta Gateway something to be proud of. Warren Jacoby Marietta
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