Semantics alive and well in Lansing

Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013
Semantics alive and well in Lansing story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The use of semantics in politics is probably right up there with the oldest activities known to mankind.

Tonight in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says the practice is certainly alive and well in Lansing.


The popular definition of “semantics” is using carefully chosen words to covey one truth to avoid using the obvious words to deal with a higher truth.

With that said, a couple of weeks ago I called Michigan Senate Republicans a bunch of hypocrites for trying to kill Medicaid expansion in Michigan.

Their arguments against it were a collection of stern warnings about the dangers of creating another legacy cost that would get passed on to our children and that it was a part of the dreaded Obamacare.

Essentially, they argued, it was just too expensive.

It was pretty much the same argument they’ve used over the past few years in coming up with one tough solution after another, affecting education, workers rights, charities, teachers, welfare recipients—or as the Michigan lawyer blog puts it: “people with jobs that that don’t pay much. You know—everyone.”

But with Medicaid expansion, which will give nearly a half-million Michigan residents a chance to have actual health care, instead of using ridiculously expensive emergency rooms as doctors offices, the federal government, under the auspices of the affordable care act, would pick up the tab.

One hundred percent of it for four years and then 90 percent after that. A no-brainer.

The beneficiaries are people who work, who have jobs, live just above the poverty line, but have no health insurance.

Their employers don’t offer it and they can’t afford it one their own.

Which brings us to why I referred to senate republicans as a bunch of hypocrites. Two year ago, in October of 2011, this same group of people—this same group—who so passionately argues against health care for poor people—voted to give themselves lifetime healthcare. Imagine that.

At that time, the House had passed a retroactive bill that would have ended retiree healthcare benefits for all legislators who didn’t have six years of service under their belts by January 1 of 2007.

That didn’t sit well with the Senate. So, it passed a bill that protected retiree benefits for all but two Senators, and most House members, who had six years in office, prior to January 1 of this year.

In other words, yes, our state is in financial trouble. Yes, we do have to make budget cuts. Yes, we’ve slashed a lot already and will cut more.

But no, we will not cut our own retirement benefits.

We will cut them for future lawmakers, but not for ourselves.

After watching my commentary, one viewer wrote her Senator, who happens to be Tonya Schuitmaker—by all accounts, a kind, thoughtful, caring legislator.

“I told her,” the viewer said, that “I could not understand her vote on health care for the most vulnerable of our working citizens,” and went on to say she hoped she would be there when the Senator “answered to her God why she voted no,” to extending Medicaid.

And this is where things get to be a matter of semantics.

Senator Schuitmaker wrote her back, and said to me the same thing on the phone this morning: that to suggest that Senators voted to give themselves lifetime health benefits was woefully misleading.

Why? Well, the Senator said, the vote of two years ago, quoting now, “ended that practice going forward.”

Huh? Well, true. In a kind of “I’ve-got-mine-the heck-with-you” fashion, it did end it going forward.

Okay. Compliments all around.

But the undeniable fact is, the vote of two years ago also protected health care benefits for all but two Senators.

It was the crust on the bread. It was carefully worded and carefully done.

Senators of the future won’t get it. But the sitting ones will. Not bad for six years of work.

Not bad for a group of politicians who then have the audacity to turn around and suggest health care for a huge disadvantaged segment of our population is too expensive and not in our best interest.

That’s called hypocrisy. Even with semantics, I can’t think of another way to say it.

In this corner, I’m Tom Van Howe.

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Last Update on November 27, 2015 18:34 GMT


CHICAGO (AP) -- A protest march has begun in Chicago's Magnificent Mile shopping district, with the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the middle of a crowd that's shouting, "What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!"

Several hundred demonstrators have gathered in the drizzling rain, many with umbrellas and plastic-wrapped signs.

They're protesting the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white police officer last year. The recent release of a video showing the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald has set off days of largely peaceful protests.

Protesters sought high visibility by taking the demonstrations to the city's main shopping area on what's traditionally one of the year's biggest shopping days.

An association representing hundreds of high-end retailers, hotels and restaurants in the district says it's confident authorities will maintain order for thousands of Black Friday shoppers. The Magnificent Mile Association represents 780 businesses on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue.


UNDATED (AP) -- "Black Friday" may no longer represent an early start on holiday shopping. For some, it may be too late.

One woman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, says her $200 budget today was the same as last year, but that it didn't buy as much because the best bargains were on Thanksgiving night.

Ashley Walton says the day for bargains is now "Black Thursday." She says she didn't go shopping on Thanksgiving because she was in what she calls a "turkey coma."

A Kmart shopper in Denver this morning had nearly the entire store to herself, and found it "sad." Susan Montoya said it's "no challenge" when no one else is shopping. She says people must have gone out yesterday or be shopping online.

Early numbers aren't out yet on how many shoppers headed to stores on Thanksgiving Day. The National Retail Federation expected about 30 million to shop on Thanksgiving, and 99.7 million on Black Friday.


BERLIN (AP) -- A closely-watched survey shows German consumers are losing confidence amid growing concerns of an economic slump.

The GfK research group said Friday its forward-looking consumer climate index dropped for the fourth month in a row to 9.3 points in December, from 9.4 in November.

GfK says consumers' willingness to buy rose, but that was offset by drops in both their income and economic expectations, partially linked to the growing number of asylum seekers pouring into the country.

Germany is set to receive more than 1 million refugees and other migrants this year and some 40 percent of consumers surveyed told GfK they believed unemployment would soon rise, most of them saying the newcomers would hurt the labor market.

GfK's monthly survey is based on some 2,000 consumer interviews.


BRUSSELS (AP) -- Greece and its creditors are close to sealing a deal on conditions that Athens must respect to obtain the next slice of rescue money.

The country has already received this week approval for a 2 billion euro loan, and is negotiating on more economic measures needed to get another 1 billion euros.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Friday the sides have "agreed broadly the second set of milestones."

She said that when the details are ironed out "this of course would unlock the disbursement of the final one billion euros still available."

That would also allow for an important review of Greece's handling of its austerity program, which is required to secure international credit.

Andreeva said the implementation of pension reforms "is a key part of the first review."


GENEVA (AP) -- A Swiss court has convicted in absentia a former employee with international bank HSBC for economic espionage and sentenced him to five years in prison.

Herve Falciani -- seen by some as a crucial whistleblower -- had refused to travel from his native France to appear before the Swiss Federal Tribunal in Bellinzona in proceedings that began in October.

France does not extradite its own citizens and Falciani appears unlikely to serve the sentence.

Falciani was on trial for leaking bank data that led to a worldwide wave of tax evasion probes against prominent clients in France and elsewhere.

He was charged with illegally obtaining data, economic espionage, breach of business confidentiality and breach of bank secrecy while working at a Swiss HSBC subsidiary between 2006 and 2008.


Glitch causes bank customers to see billions in charges

HONOLULU (AP) -- A technical glitch meant some First Hawaiian Bank customers logged on to their accounts to find that they appeared to be billions, or sometimes more than a trillion dollars in the red.

KHON-TV reports that bank officials say the glitch was visible to customers who logged on to their accounts during a 20-minute window Wednesday. They say no actual customer information or balances were affected by the issue.

Customers who logged in at that time saw outstanding balances of at least $710 billion.

Kauai resident George White says when he saw the error all he could think was, "Well, my wife is going to kill me."

First Hawaii Bank said in a statement that the issue was resolved quickly and that the bank apologized to customers who were inconvenienced.

Washington Times