COVID-19 and the blue state blues.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (left) and Illinois State Senate President Dan Harmon (AP Photos)

Recently, Dan Harmon, the president of the Illinois state senate, wrote a letter to that state’s Congressional delegation in Washington urging the state’s representatives to seek $41 billion in federal aid.

Illinois, like every state in the union, has taken a huge financial hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, just as Congress sent money to the states in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the odds are that such will happen again in the wake of COVID-19.

The wisdom and advisability of such action can be debated by people of goodwill. Let’s resolve to explore that debate one day. But for now, let’s simply acknowledge that the states have been slammed and are hurting for money. If Congress is going to address that hurt, Senator Harmon of Illinois can’t be blamed for wanting as much help as can be gotten.

But here’s where the trolley goes off the track.

Of the $41 billion that Harmon wants from Congress, he wants a quarter of it — $10 billion – to go toward bailing out Illinois’s grossly underfunded public employee pension system. That underfunding has exactly zero connection to the coronavirus outbreak.

Illinois’s public employee pension system is in deep trouble. Its obligations exceed its resources to the tune of about $130 billion. For some perspective, consider that the state’s entire operating budget for fiscal year 2020 is just $40.8 billion.

As a result of this crushing pension deficit – and not because of the COVID-19 pandemic – Illinois’s fiscal future is bleak. That grim reality has been decades in the making and has been brought about by the grotesque profligacy of the state’s Democrat-dominated legislature.

Illinois is not alone. Legislatures and public employee unions in deep-blue states that include New York, California and others, operate co-dependently in a feedback loop in which Democratic lawmakers vote in lavish salaries and benefits for unionized state employees in return for lavish union campaign contributions. Those contributions help Democratic lawmakers remain in power, which in turn ensures continued lavish salaries and benefits for state employees. As to the citizens who must pay for it all, who cares?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is having none of it. McConnell correctly said that states would be more than happy for the federal government to borrow gobs of money from its unborn citizens in order to send money to states right now.

McConnell went on to float the idea of states declaring bankruptcy as a way of shedding the bitter fruits of their profligacy. “Oh, the humanity!,” shrieked the media.

But McConnell is right. Illinois, and blue states like it, were fiscal basket cases long before COVID-19. State lawmakers that try to hide decades of irresponsibility and cynical self-dealing behind a crisis like the current one should be ashamed of themselves but, of course, never will be.

One thing is certain. The fiscal straits of blue states like Illinois are not the fault of – nor the responsibility of – any taxpayer in Texas or Kentucky.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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28 Responses

  1. Buddy Saunders says:

    The time to pay the piper is nearer every day. We are going to end up with every state, not just a few, singing the blues as inflation does what it always does when a government print money out of thin air. God help us.

  2. AMEN. You’ve spotted the #1 timebomb in many state budgets: COLAs in union state employee pension funds. The ultimate kick-the-can by wide-tie/shiny-suit state legislators. Let the next guys worry about it.

    • R. Eagleman says:

      To paraphrase an occasional wise contributor to this forum:…… “BE CAREFUL, VERY careful about criticizing fellow travelers; you will be shunned faster than an Amish guy wearing an Apple watch.” These blue governors are much like selfish children; sometimes you just need to slap their hands and say NO!

      • Not just the blue govs.
        Look around.

        • R. Eagleman says:

          Please be more specific, Maybe Hogan, but others? What percentage of the 50 states that have allowed generous government pensions to bankrupt the state have a D or R behind the name? Regardless, let’s slap their hands too!

          • More specific you ask?
            We did NOT rehearse this…

            Here in Rhode Island, the bluest of the blue states, our Democratic governor, now in her second term and getting rave reviews for her leadership during the crisis — and YUGE TV ratings for her daily briefing — was previously the state general treasurer who stared down the state employees union and fixed the pension problem.

            Specific enough?

  3. C M Solomon says:

    I have one question. At what point do we call it THEFT when those who are financially responsible are REQUIRED to “bail out” others who are financially irresponsible and who are not held ACCOUNTABLE for their debts? Sorry, I forgot. In the world of Socialism, there is no such thing as ACCOUNTABILITY of any sort, particularly if you are a member of their Ruling Power Club.

    Just imagine if Trump is defeated and the Democrats control Congress after the next election due to the virus and unemployment fear that has gripped the country. We can look forward to a Nationalized and Homogenized World Centric, media, academia, and industry of every type and the reallocation of personal rights and property for the sole benefit of the “common good”. We have already been “educated” by the proponents of an extended COVID-19 shut-down that the air is clearer, wildlife is thriving, and streams are cleaner. During this period we have developed a healthy spirit of “We’re all in this together” and therefore should be willing to live a more modest life style with less stress on the environment in order to help save planet Earth from uncontrolled Capitalism. Maybe a Depression, every now and then, can be a good thing if it forces us to turn back to our roots of caring for one another and using government power, influence, and money to make a more perfect society where “social justice” is available to all. It’s a beautiful thing!

    • Michael Reagan says:

      Ever heard of a sage named Walter Williams or Thomas Sowell? Dr. Williams has been railing against the government theft of our tax dollars for years. Dr. Sowell joined the fray long ago as well. If you do not know these two; look them up. They both are well worth getting to know and reading their commentary as they are true American Patriots in the fight for our Republic.

      • C M Solomon says:

        It is indeed government THEFT and it has always been the case. I have known about the Williams and Sowell Patriots for years. They are shunned by academia, media and government, yet they are able to proclaim the truth to those of us who will listen!

        The problem is that the Socialist Left has never accepted Eternal Absolutes of Right and Wrong and like good little Marxists, preach that “the end justifies the means,” no matter what! Otherwise, they would be out of business selling their deception, depravity, and ultimate destitution to their reality-deaf followers.

      • C M Solomon says:

        Michael, my question was intended to be a rhetorical one and I didn’t make that clear enough. You are right to remind us of two great economists!

        • Michael Reagan says:

          Got it, good post! BTW the recent kerphlufle in Californication is the distribution of $75 million stimulus dollars to our illegal brothers and sisters as dictated by the People’s Democratic Workers Society of the California Supreme Court. That number is what is being floated; who knows what the actual number is. Excuse me while I go outside and scream at a tree.

  4. C M Solomon says:

    One more thing. The vast expansion of the Welfare State to pay for the vast number of unemployed while we “accommodate” the virus fear machine and.continue the indefinite shut-down, is quite compatible with the expansion of “compassionate” Socialism. Hence, the need to spend whatever “government” funds [our individual diluted productivity through taxes and inflation] in order to establish even less ACCOUNTABILITY by self appointed government masterminds that can spend OUR money more “fairly” to benefit the “collective” of society in the end. It’s a wonderful thing!

  5. C M Solomon says:

    Speaking of deflecting costs and responsibility to others, why would some blue state’s governments force local nursing homes (and long term care facilities) to take COVID-19 patients from major (State operated?) hospitals, including those patients already in need of intensive care? Isn’t this contaminating the living quarters of the older generation that is most likely to die if they become infected? Many of the officials of the nursing homes tried to protest this directive to the state health bureaucracies back in March but could not get any action to stop the practice. Nursing homes are not set up to care for patients needing intensive care particularly with poor Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the local staff. If you want to speculate why the NY corridor has had a far greater death rate among the elderly compared to the rest of the country, you might find the following to be disturbing.

    Please note the following article: “State lacked common sense in nursing homes coronavirus approach” by Michael Goodwin at the NY Post.

    https://nypost.com/2020/04/25/new-york-lacked-common-sense-in-nursing-homes-coronavirus-approach/

    Here are a few pull quotes.

    “Then look at the now-infamous March 25 directive from the New York State Department of Health that orders those homes and rehabilitation centers to admit and readmit patients sick with the coronavirus. The devil comes in the first sentence of the fifth paragraph:

    {No resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to the NH [Nursing Home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.}

    It reads like a legal warning against discrimination — because that’s what it is. The order effectively makes patients contaminated with a highly contagious disease a protected class, akin to the way bias is banned along ­racial and gender lines.

    The concept is obscene. For the same reason that you don’t strike a match near gasoline, anyone carrying the virus should be banned from nursing homes, not forced on them.

    Recall that the phrase “out of an abundance of caution” was used to justify shutdowns of schools, churches and commerce and impose social distancing guidelines everywhere. Nursing homes needed even more extreme protections, which is why all visitors, including family, were banned, lest they accidentally infect loved ones and start a daisy chain of death.

    {Video: Nursing homes have ‘no right’ to reject coronavirus patients – Cuomo}

    Yet when it came to those same facilities, members of Gov. Cuomo’s team didn’t exhibit a whit of caution or common sense. The results were predictably catastrophic.

    The second sentence in the same paragraph compounds the disaster. It says nursing homes “are prohibited from requiring a hospitalized resident who is determined medically stable to be tested for COVID-19 prior to admission or readmission.”

    In plain English, nursing homes cannot even ask whether a patient coming from a hospital has been tested for the virus or is positive. Unless the referring hospital volunteers that information, nursing homes must wait until the patient arrives and do their own tests.”

    End of pull quote.

    It gets worse from this point in the article. My conclusion is that these horrors will continue to happen when a cavalier attitude [lofty disregard of others’ interests] by government bureaucrats who habitually escape ACCOUNTABILITY are allowed to flourish and keep their jobs, all in the name of political expediency.

  6. R. Eagleman says:

    I have just had the opportunity to read Solomon’s post, which is a very thoughtful and accurate description of how one of the blue state governors has governed in this desperate need for adult governance. The DNA of Mario has to be the only reason this man-child has ever been allowed to be governor of the great state of New York. Please, please someone give a reasonable defense of Cuomo’s executive order to require nursing homes to accept Covid 19 patients. In my opinion, this was probably one of the dumbest and most cruel decisions ever made in the struggle against this highly contagious virus. Maybe HC will able to offer his rationale (unless HC is a she). I am sure there is a wise and well-considered reason for exposing this vulnerable population to the virus that we all have been jumping through hoops to avoid. So, please share this wisdom with inquiring minds.

    • I get that a lot.
      Innocent mistake, by another Texan:
      http://getonthenet.com/cooketaylor.mp3

      • R. Eagleman says:

        O.K sir, not that gender matters, but how ’bout my plea for a wise rationale to excuse Governor Cuomo’s prohibition of Covid-19 patients being denied admission or re-admission into nursing homes. Do you agree with that blue state Governor? I just have to believe that you do not, but it would be nice to know for sure.

        • Not being a stakeholder, or exposed to the level-of-detail in data from which these decisions are derived, I’ll defer to his rationale; which is likely more deliberate than spitballs calling him a “blue state governor.”

          Those who died were people who had names.

          • R. Eagleman says:

            In case you have forgotten, Paul’s topic is” Covid-19 and the blue state blues”, so it is neither spitballs nor incorrect to identify the Governor of New York as a blue state governor. However, I am disappointed that you are not able to state whether or not you agree with this blue state governor’s prohibition of nursing homes being able to protect their residents from this contagious disease. Seems pretty simple, but even though I am a little disappointed, not surprised. Furthermore, you are very inconsiderate in stating that those who died HAD names; they still HAVE names, and they may could still have a heartbeat if this blue state governor had a brain.

        • C M Solomon says:

          The Lack of Liability of the Libertine Lifestyle of the Loony Liberal Left has produced a Lexicon prohibiting the Love of Life, Liberty, or LOGIC.

          By the way, the “newly liberated” Lexicon of the Loony Liberal Left recognizes 20-something genders – I’ve lost count. I’m ready to add “her-man”, “her-she”, “his-she”, “she-man”, “his-he”, “she-he” and “he-man” to the mix. The Evolutionary wonders of Dialectical Materialism continue to Push the Progressives to even greater heights of Glory and Dominance!

  7. Eagle Man (or woman…who knows, here in The Land of Initials?),

    Between his work on LBJ’s first congressional campaign, and serving as Bush Sr.’s Ambassador to the USSR, Bob Strauss was chairman of the Democratic National Committee (“the Democrat’ Party” to Rush Limbaugh listeners).

    When Ted Kennedy challenged President Carter’s re-election, Strauss, interviewed by the late, great Tom Snyder, was asked about various potshots Kennedy was taking at Carter. Demure and drawling, Strauss called Kennedy “a bank-walker.”

    “Bank-walker?” Snyder asked, through curling cigarette smoke, with that furrowed brow of curiosity.

    “Bank-walker,” Strauss explained, “It’s easier to walk along the riverbank than to jump in and swim.”

    Your public policy critique of how the hottest-of-the-hotspots 1650 miles away is being handled still strikes me as casual and recreationally argumentative. But hey, we’re all a little bored these days.

    • R. Eagleman says:

      It would be Ron (as in Ronald) Eagleman; however, who knows……..right? Bank-walking with Ted; this must have been at Chappaquiddick when he was deciding whether to try to save Mary Jo Kopechne. Unfortunately, he decided to save his own skin and become the Democrat darling and “Lion of the Senate”. Do not forget your meds.

  8. C M Solomon says:

    It is obvious to me that many “blue/purple state governors” are using this pandemic to feed their Totalitarian Instincts (based on their low Integrity Quotient and brain IQ) and to extend the fear machine shutdown at the expense of a healthy and vital economy (necessary for our freedoms to remain intact). This will certainly force many households to become very dependent on Welfare, well beyond this summer, because of the extremely high unemployment rate of 30% and 30 million filling for unemployment benefits, just to put food on the table. Hundreds of thousands of small businesses will go bankrupt also, therefore limiting the opportunities for an employment recovery. A nation of 320 million citizens are being directed by the policies driven by the NY CORRIDOR death rate where 38,000 deaths have occurred as opposed to the 67,787 total US deaths that have been “tagged” by the COVID-19 virus in spite of comorbidity issues that may have been present at the time.

    This unconscionable move on the governors’ part will surely give the Democrats a huge advantage to sweep the nation in the November elections resulting in a draconian establishment of an iron-fisted erosion of personal and property rights, as well as, business, religious, family, and educational rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. It is NO secret how much these would-be tyrants HATE the Constitution. We already know how the Democrats, Deep State, and Mob Media establishments want to use “Climate Change” to turn us into a Marxist Utopia in which THEY CONTROL our everyday lives.

    The following linked article (4/22/2020) is a stark reminder of the real facts regarding the COVID-19 infection statistics by Scott W. Atlas, MD, a David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. This article made me realize that we are being fed FEAR propaganda that always expands the following: 1) Government Deep State bureaucracy, 2) Power of Leftist government officials, and 3) Left-wing Media, at the expense of our fundamental basic freedoms and the right to be informed of the true facts. Without the TRUTH being exposed, FREEDOM dies and Tyranny is given an excuse to Control and Rule society at large, a fact born out by the rise of despotism in history.

    https://thehill.com/opinion/healthcare/494034-the-data-are-in-stop-the-panic-and-end-the-total-isolation

    Here are some excerpts from the article – the EMPHASIS is mine. I hope many will read the above link in full.

    “Tens of thousands of Americans have died, and Americans are now desperate for sensible policymakers who have the courage to ignore the panic and rely on facts. Leaders must examine accumulated data to see what has actually happened, rather than keep emphasizing hypothetical projections; combine that empirical evidence with fundamental principles of biology established for decades; and then thoughtfully restore the country to function.

    Five key facts are being ignored by those calling for continuing the near-total lockdown.

    Fact 1: The overwhelming majority of people do not have any significant risk of dying from COVID-19.

    In New York City, an epicenter of the pandemic WITH MORE THAN ONE-THIRD OF ALL U.S. DEATHS, the rate of death for people 18 to 45 years old is 0.01 percent, or 10 per 100,000 in the population. On the other hand, people aged 75 and over have a death rate 80 times that. For people under 18 years old, the rate of death is zero per 100,000.

    Of all FATAL cases in New York state, TWO-THIRDS were in patients over 70 years of age; more than 95 percent were over 50 years of age; and about 90 PERCENT OF ALL FATAL CASES HAD AN UNDERLYING ILLNESS. Of 6,570 confirmed COVID-19 deaths fully investigated for underlying conditions to date, 6,520, or 99.2 percent, had an underlying illness. If you do not already have an underlying chronic condition, your chances of dying are small, regardless of age. And young adults and children in normal health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19.

    Fact 2: Protecting older, at-risk people eliminates hospital overcrowding.

    For those under 18 years of age, hospitalization from the virus is 0.01 percent, or 11 per 100,000 people; for those 18 to 44 years old, hospitalization is 0.1 percent. Even for people ages 65 to 74, only 1.7 percent were hospitalized.
    HALF OF ALL PEOPLE testing positive for infection have NO symptoms at all. The vast majority of younger, otherwise healthy people do not need significant medical care if they catch this infection.

    Fact 3: Vital population IMMUNITY IS PREVENTED by total isolation policies, prolonging the problem.

    In fact, infected people without severe illness are the immediately available vehicle for establishing widespread immunity. By transmitting the virus to others in the low-risk group who then generate antibodies, they block the network of pathways toward the most vulnerable people, ultimately ending the threat. Extending whole-population isolation would directly prevent that widespread immunity from developing.

    Fact 4: People are DYING because OTHER MEDICAL CARE is not getting done due to hypothetical projections.

    CRITICAL HEALTH CARE for millions of Americans is being ignored and people are dying to accommodate “potential” COVID-19 patients and for fear of spreading the disease. Most states and many hospitals abruptly stopped “nonessential” procedures and surgery. That prevented diagnoses of life-threatening diseases, like cancer screening, biopsies of tumors now undiscovered and potentially deadly brain aneurysms. Treatments, including emergency care, for the most serious illnesses were also missed. Cancer patients deferred chemotherapy. An estimated 80 percent of brain surgery cases were skipped. Acute stroke and heart attack patients missed their only chances for treatment; some dying and many now [are] facing permanent disability.

    Fact 5: We have a clearly defined population at risk who can be protected with targeted measures.

    The overwhelming evidence all over the world consistently shows that a clearly defined group — older people and others with underlying conditions — is more likely to have a serious illness requiring hospitalization and more likely to die from COVID-19. Knowing that, it is a COMMONSENSE, achievable goal to target isolation policy to that group, including strictly monitoring those who interact with them. NURSING HOME RESIDENTS, the highest risk, should be the most straightforward to systematically protect from infected people, given that they already live in confined places with highly restricted entry.

    Let’s stop underemphasizing empirical evidence while instead doubling down on hypothetical models. Facts matter.”

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