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.

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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.

Business News

Last Update on July 30, 2015 07:34 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week.

The Commerce Department will also issue the first of three estimates of how the U.S. economy performed in the April-June quarter. In the first three months of the year, the economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.2 percent.

Also today, Freddie Mac will report on average mortgage rates and Zillow will release its latest data on rental prices around the country. The report is likely to show that rents continue to climb amid strong demand for apartments

Procter & Gamble will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Amgen and LinkedIn will report after the closing bell.

HOME RENTAL PRICES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. home rental prices climbed much faster than incomes in June. But there are signs of slowing momentum around New York, Los Angeles and Washington.

Real estate data firm Zillow says that U.S. rental prices rose a seasonally adjusted 4.3 percent in June from a year ago, roughly matching the same pace as in May.

Rents continue to jump at double-digit rates in Denver, San Francisco and San Jose, California. But the monthly data suggests that several other major markets have either added enough new buildings or prices have pushed residents to their financial limits and cannot rise further.

Median prices slipped month over month in the New York metro area by $15 to $2,340, while also dropping slightly in Washington and flat-lining in Los Angeles.

SKOREA-EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung Electronics is reporting a fifth straight quarterly profit drop as the Galaxy S6 series of smartphones failed to reverse its declining fortune in the smartphone industry.

Samsung's April-June net income was 5.8 trillion won ($5 billion), down 8 percent from 6.3 trillion won a year earlier. A FactSet survey of analysts predicted 5.6 trillion won of net income.

Sales fell 7 percent over a year earlier to 48.5 trillion won while operating income dropped 4 percent to 6.9 trillion won, in line with its earnings preview earlier this month.

A robust performance at its semiconductor department helped narrow the profit decline. Operating income from its semiconductor division surpassed the 3 trillion won mark for the first time in multiple years.

But the launch of the latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones, were not enough to halt its decline in the smartphone industry.

FINLAND-EARNS-NOKIA

HELSINKI (AP) -- Telecommunications and wireless equipment maker Nokia Corp. says second-quarter net profit was (euro) 347 million euros ($383 million), with growth particularly strong in its core networks division.

Overall sales increased 9 percent to 3.2 billion euros, with higher software sales and global demand for mobile broadband. Net profit a year earlier was 213 million euros but is not directly comparable because of discontinued operations.

CEO Rajeev Suri says all three of the Finnish company's remaining business sectors performed very well and it was "well positioned to deliver on our full-year 2015 commitments."

Nokia, which was unable to meet the challenges of Apple, Samsung and Asian phone makers, has seen a turnaround in its business since selling its ailing handset unit to Microsoft for 5.4 billion euros in 2013.

GERMANY-EARNS-LUFTHANSA

BERLIN (AP) -- Lufthansa says its earnings trebled in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, helped by falling fuel costs.

Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which includes airlines such as Swiss, Austrian Airlines and Germanwings, reports net earnings of 529 million euros ($584 million) for the April-June period, up from 173 million euros a year earlier. Revenue rose 8.9 percent to 8.39 billion euros from 7.7 billion euros.

Lufthansa confirmed its full-year outlook for adjusted pre-tax earnings of over 1.5 billion euros before strike costs.

The second quarter saw no strikes by Lufthansa's pilots in a long-running dispute that has led to repeated disruptions.

Chief financial officer Simone Menne says, alongside "extra momentum" for Lufthansa's passenger airlines, "the fall in fuel costs is largely responsible for the improvement in our results."

FORD F-150-CRASH TESTS

DETROIT (AP) -- Ford's aluminum-sided F-150 pickup saw mixed results in new crash tests.

The four-door Super Crew version of the 2015 F-150 got top ratings in all five crash tests performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For now, it is the only full-size truck on the market with the institute's "Top Safety Pick" rating.

But the smaller Super Cab version did poorly on one frontal crash test.

The insurance institute says aluminum is safe and performed well. The different results were due to a design difference in the steel frame beneath the aluminum sides.

Ford noted that the trucks earned the government's top safety ratings. But it says it will improve the design of the Super Cab and Regular Cab trucks in 2016 so they perform better in front crashes.

BOEING-OKLAHOMA

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Boeing has broken ground on a new $80 million, 290,000-square-foot building that will house about 800 new employees and be the third structure in the aerospace company's growing Oklahoma City campus.

The Chicago-based Boeing also announced that the headquarters of the Global Services & Support unit's Aircraft Modernization and Sustainment division will relocate to Oklahoma City.

Boeing also says the Aircraft Modernization and Sustainment division, which provides aircraft services for executive transport, airborne refueling, airborne command and control and global strike capabilities, is relocating from St. Louis.

Oklahoma City officials have estimated the expansion will have an economic impact of $637.7 million over four years. Earlier this year, the city agreed to $6 million in job creation incentives for Boeing.

Boeing announced plans last year to move most of its defense and support-related services from Washington state to other areas as part of its efforts to improve the competitiveness of the Defense, Space & Security unit. The company said about 2,000 employees could be affected, with 900 jobs possibly moving to Oklahoma City and up to 500 to St. Louis in about three years.

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