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 September 30, 2014 07:20 GMT

HONG KONG DEMOCRACY PROTESTS

HONG KONG (AP) -- Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong say they'll initiate new civil disobedience efforts tomorrow unless their demands for genuine democracy and the resignation of the city's unpopular chief executive are met.

The protesters spent another night blocking streets in an already unprecedented show of civil disobedience.

Even larger crowds are expected to flood the streets tomorrow, China's National Day holiday. The government says a holiday fireworks display is canceled.

Chief Executive Leung (lee-ung) Chun-ying urged the Occupy Central group today to take into account the considerations of other residents and stop its disruptive protest. And he says China's communist leaders in Beijing will not back down from an August decision to restrict voting reforms for the first direct elections to pick his successor in 2017.

The crowd, mostly students, continues to occupy a six-lane highway next to the local government headquarters.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

BEIJING (AP) -- A survey has found China's manufacturing activity in September held steady at the previous month's low level, indicating the world's second-largest economy faces risks to growth.

HSBC Corp. said Tuesday its monthly purchasing managers' index stood at 50.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate expansion. It was unchanged from August's 3-month low.

A measure of export orders rose to its highest level since March 2010.

China's economy grew by 7.5 percent over a year earlier in the quarter ending in June but manufacturing, housing sales and other indicators suggest growth might be weakening.

HSBC economist Hongbin Qu said in a statement, "We think risks to growth are still on the downside and warrant more accommodative monetary as well as fiscal policies."

DRUG COMPANIES-DOC PAYMENTS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration is planning to release data Tuesday on drug and medical device company payments to tens of thousands of individual doctors.

The goal is to shine a light on potential ethical conflicts in medicine. Consumer groups say it's overdue, but doctors' groups fear consumers will jump to the wrong conclusions.

President Barack Obama's health care law calls for companies to report payments of $10 or more to physicians. It's a provision that has bipartisan support.

The goal is to allow patients to look up their own doctors online. That functionality won't be ready yet. But the preliminary data being released Tuesday is expected to be useful for researchers.

REVEL SALE

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) -- A bankruptcy court auction for Revel, the failed luxury casino-hotel on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, is scheduled to resume today.

The auction that began last Wednesday was suspended due to the approach of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. Revel has refused to reveal details of what has transpired so far.

The former casino's management has received multiple bids for the property. The lone bid made public thus far is $90 million from Florida developer Glenn Straub, who envisions a gathering place for "geniuses" tackling a number of problems, with or without a casino.

The casino cost $2.4 billion to build, and had been open for just over two years before going out of business on Sept. 2.

SUPERVALU-ALBERTSONS-DATA BREACH

NEW YORK (AP) -- Two supermarket companies -- Supervalu and Albertsons -- are reporting that the credit and debit card data of their shoppers may be at risk because of a hack.

The companies say that in late August or early September, malicious software was installed on networks that process card transactions at some of their stores.

Albertsons says the malware may have captured data including account numbers, card expiration dates and the names of cardholders at stores in more than a dozen states. Supervalu says the malware was installed on a network that processes card transactions at several chains, but it believes data was only taken from certain checkout lanes at four Cub Foods stores in Minnesota.

The breach could affect Albertsons stores in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming; Acme Markets stores in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Jewel-Osco stores in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa; and Shaw's and Star Markets stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The Boise, Idaho-based company has a total of 1,081 stores.

TOYOTA-PICKUP RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- Toyota says it is recalling 690,000 Tacoma pickup trucks because the rear leaf springs could break, puncture the gas tank and cause a fire.

The recall covers Tacoma Four-by-Four and Pre-Runner pickups from the 2005 through 2011 model years.

The automaker says the leaf springs can fracture due to stress and corrosion. They can move out of position and come into contact with surrounding components, including the gas tank. Toyota says it's not aware of any fires, crashes or injuries from the problem.

Owners will be notified by mail and Toyota says dealers will fix the problem at no cost.

Owners with questions can call Toyota at (800) 331-4331.

UNPAID TAXES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A report by federal investigators says IRS workers are often not doing all the research they are supposed to do to track down people with unpaid tax bills.

The study doesn't estimate how much money that costs the government. But it says that in 2012, the IRS declared $6.7 billion in unpaid taxes to be uncollectable because it couldn't find the taxpayer.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released the report Monday. That office is the agency that audits the IRS.

The report found that in 57 percent of 250 cases studied, there was no evidence that workers did all required research before declaring taxes uncollectable.

The IRS contested some of the study's findings. It said investigators had significantly overestimated the value of some of the unpaid taxes.

CONSUMER SPENDING

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Americans boosted spending by a healthy amount in August, offering welcome evidence that the economy is on solid footing heading into the final quarter of the year.

The Commerce Department reports that consumer spending in August rose 0.5 percent from the previous month after showing no gain in July. It was the best result since spending also expanded 0.5 percent in June.

Helped by higher wages and salaries, income rose a modest 0.3 percent in August, slightly faster than a 0.2 percent July increase.

The acceleration in spending added to signs that the economy is sustaining strength in the current July-September quarter. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity, and the lackluster showing in July had raised concerns about whether the economy would retain the momentum it built in the spring after a harsh winter.

ARGENTINA DEFAULT

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York judge has ruled that Argentina was in contempt of court on Monday for its open defiance of his orders. U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa had issued an order requiring that U.S. hedge funds holding Argentine bonds be paid the roughly $1.5 billion they are owed if the majority of the South American nation's bondholders are paid interest on their bonds.

Griesa made the announcement after a lawyer for U.S. hedge funds -- led by billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd. -- argued that Argentina has openly defied Griesa's court orders for more than a year. The judge reserved a decision on sanctions pending further proceedings.

The judge said repeated efforts to avoid paying U.S. bondholders was illegal conduct and no longer could be ignored. Griesa said that Argentina in various ways has sought "to not attend to" its financial obligations.

FORD OUTLOOK

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- Ford shares have tumbled after the automaker said that it will fall short of its full-year profit goals.

At a conference for investors, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it expects a pretax profit of around $6 billion this year, down from the $7 billion to $8 billion it previously forecast.

Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said record profits in North America aren't enough to offset trouble in South America, where Ford expects to lose $1 billion this year, and Russia, where falling sales and the rapid deterioration of the ruble took the company by surprise. Warranty costs -- including a $500 million charge for last week's recall of 850,000 vehicles for defective air bags -- are also higher than expected.

Shanks said Ford expects a pretax profit of $8.5 billion to $9.5 billion in 2015, based partly upon an expected recovery in South America and improvement in warranty costs. The company also plans fewer vehicle introductions in 2015, which will cut costs. Ford is introducing 23 vehicles worldwide this year; next year, it plans to introduce 16.

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