August 13, 2016

Politics and roosters

The latest Front Porch program/podcast discusses issues in the WV governor's race, Trumpiana, and the passing of my favorite rooster. There is considerable overlap between political behavior and that of roosters. In fact, living around roosters has greatly deepened my understanding of politics.

August 12, 2016

Higher education in WV

Recently the Huntington Herald-Dispatch had a good editorial about the role of higher education in the state's economy. Here's how it started:

Whoever is calling the shots at the Capitol in Charleston next year may want to think twice about continuing the recent trend of reducing state aid for West Virginia's higher education institutions. Curtailing support for those institutions could undermine a key economic component of the state at a time when the Mountain State's struggling economy needs all the help it can get.
The point was underscored last week by a study from West Virginia University's Bureau of Business and Economic Research gauging the economic impact of 21 higher education institutions on their respective local economies. The study, sought by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, concluded that those universities and colleges contributed about $2.7 billion overall to the state's economy in 2014 either directly or indirectly. While by no means the main economic engine of the state, that number equates to about 3.5 percent of the state's total economy - a significant enough portion that warrants careful handling by the state's policy makers. Altogether, that spending supported about 22,000 jobs either at the institutions or by spinoff economic activity, the study found.
Sadly, higher education continues to be cut in the state budget. Why anyone would do that in the state with the lowest educational attainment rate is beyond my understanding. But then, the Republican candidate for governor wants to increase mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses and build more prisons while others like state senator Craig Blair want to privatize colleges and universities.

I ask again, what could possibly go wrong?

August 11, 2016

The good, the bad and the anciently weird

Labor supporters in West Virginia got a boost recently when a Kanawha County judge issued an injunction temporarily blocking the implementation of the recently enacted right to work for less law. I hope she takes her good old time in making a decision, although the case is expected to be concluded within 90 days. It's totally OK with me if it goes longer.

On the downside, outgoing senate president and gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole came out for more mandatory minimums and building more prisons in a state that can't even afford to do adequate flood relief. This would undo the fairly recent growth of common sense on the subject that is supported by many Republicans.I'm hoping that's a nonstarter.

Then there's this odd item about ancient South America from the BBC. Enjoy!

August 09, 2016

Not surprised

What do you know? Maybe our theory is correct about how health care is a good thing. According to the LA Times, 

Even as the Affordable Care Act remains a political flash point, new research shows it is dramatically improving poor patients’ access to medical care in states that have used the law to expand their Medicaid safety net.
After just two years of expanded coverage, patients in expansion states are going to the doctor more frequently and having less trouble paying for it. 
At the same time, the experience in those states suggests better access will ultimately improve patients’ health, as patients get more regular checkups and seek care for chronic illnesses such diabetes and heart disease.
A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared health and health care data from Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas  Here's the punchline:

 Our study suggests that coverage expansion … can produce substantial benefits for low-income populations.
Medicaid expansion has been a huge success in WV, where it brought coverage to around 175,000 low income people. However, we can expect attacks on it from the Republican legislature, especially as state budget woes increase.

August 08, 2016

After (and during) the disaster

The latest Front Porch podcast features my friend the Rev. Jeff Allen, executive director of the WV Council of Churches, on the role of the religious community in disaster response. Let's just say they've had plenty of practice.