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Bloomberg: Will The Candidate Measure Up To The Campaign Architect?


In the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday in Las Vegas, Michael Bloomberg the candidate badly underperformed Michael Bloomberg the brilliant campaign architect.

Architect will insulate candidate this time, preserving the hopes of many center-right Democrats that he can prevail over front runner Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an ardent socialist whom they consider unelectable.

Before the debate, Bloomberg the campaign
architect had maneuvered Bloomberg the candidate into third place in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. Most likely, former Vice President Joe Biden’s epic collapse will soon leave Bloomberg in second place behind Sanders, setting up the showdown that is the predicate of Bloomberg’s candidacy.

Not being on the ballot guaranteed Bloomberg’s survival post-Iowa and post-New Hampshire, and it insulates him from paying the normal price, in Nevada and South Carolina, for his dismal debate performance in Las Vegas.

There’s no such safety net for the other candidates, who failed to carry out their necessary debate mission — namely, to slow a surging Sanders. Instead, they attacked Bloomberg and each other in a badly moderated food fight. For former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), this was a missed opportunity to revive themselves following disastrous finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.


So, unless pre-publication polling is totally wrong, Sanders will win resoundingly Saturday in Nevada’s caucuses. A big Sanders victory means yet another defeat, and perhaps a fatal one, for each of the other candidates. That includes Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Ind., for whom it would create a serious loss of momentum going into South Carolina where his lack of black support is sure to be fatal.

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Bloomberg’s Rise Surprises Pundits — Has It Surprised Trump?


When Michael Bloomberg entered the presidential race last November, he was scorned almost universally. Now, many Democrats hope desperately that he will be their savior, the only candidate who can prevail over Bernie Sanders, an ardent socialist they
consider unelectable.

After fourth and fifth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Joe Biden is toast, as is Elizabeth Warren, following her distant third and fourth place finishes.

Mayor Mike has rocketed into third place in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, soon to pass plummeting Biden into second behind Sanders. This will set up a titanic civil war between Sandernistas and center-right Democrats.

None of this would have seemed remotely possible listening to political pundits last November. They dismissed Bloomberg’s bid, with several trite “truisms” about political tradecraft. First, money can’t buy the presidency. Second, his late entry would be fatal. Third, by skipping the first four contests, he would fall hopelessly behind. Fourth, his policy stands are all over the map, so he has no natural following or base.

First, his $50 to $66 billion (estimates vary) provide him a tremendous advantage, a massive war chest with which to beat Sanders now and Donald Trump in November.

Last November, few pundits stopped to think that, maybe, there was an obvious and compelling rationale for skipping the first four contests.

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Truck Tolls Won’t Work; New SEBAC Savings Should Fund Transportation


On Friday, January 31st, the Transportation Committee of the CT General Assembly held a public hearing on Governor Lamont's new 12-gantry heavy-trucks-only tolls proposal. Red Jahncke testified, along with many other members of the public. Above is the CT Public Affairs Network broadcast of Jahncke's testimony. The full nine hours of testimony can be accessed here: http://ct-n.com/ctnplayer.asp?odID=17098 Below is a transcript of Jahncke's testimony. In a few places, supplementary information has been added in brackets to clarify the testimony.

Truck-Toll Revenue Would Be a Mirage: Truckers Would Dodge the Gantries


There Are Access Points on I-95 About Every Mile. Trucks Could Dodge a Gantry by "Going Local" for Only a Mile.

There’s a new game in Connecticut. It’s called dodge-a-gantry. Right now, it is only a virtual game being played on Google Maps.

Governor Lamont's latest toll plan – he’s had many – is to toll only tractor-trailer trucks at just 12 highway bridges in the state. So what are truckers doing? They are getting ready to game Lamont’s proposed system. They are researching the best toll evasion routes, i.e. the best local roads to use to bypass the intended highway gantry locations.

The governor and his advisers have failed to take into account a unique and fundamental obstacle to imposing tolls in Connecticut.

Almost all existing toll roads in other states are limited-access highways. Vehicles travel for several miles between entry-exit access points. To exit and re-enter these highways in order to evade tolls is an onerous proposition. Actually, in most instances, it is impossible, because every entry-exit access point has a gantry or toll booth, where vehicles are logged in and out and charged for the distance they have traveled.

In contrast, Connecticut’s highways are uniquely open-access with short distances between entry-exit points.

In neighboring Massachusetts, the Mass Pike (I-90) has 24 entry-exit points (and 24 toll locations) over the 141 miles from West Stockbridge to downtown Boston. Here in Connecticut, I-95 has 91 access points over the 105 miles from Greenwich to Stonington.

Erecting tolls at all 91 would be absurd and exorbitantly expensive. Alternatively, gantries spanning across traffic on I-95 would invite trucks to jump off just before a gantry and re-enter a few miles further along just past the gantry.

The proposed high toll rates for trucks would provide motivation to truckers to evade the gantries.

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An after-action report: Trump, Soleimani and Khameni


Donald Trump has been excoriated by critics for ordering the killing of the number one terrorist in the world, Qassem Soleimani. If he wasn’t number one, who was?

If Iran isn’t the very definition of an enemy and a threat to world peace, what nation is? Iran is a nation whose national slogan is “Death to America” and whose greatest aspiration is to wipe another nation off the map.

The president’s critics engage in some truly tortuous mental gymnastics to level their charges.

Take U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut. On New Year’s Eve, as Soleimani’s henchmen were ransacking parts of the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdad, he tweeted: “Trump has rendered America impotent in the Middle East.

Simultaneously, Iran’s Supreme Leader – and Top Tweeter, Ayatollah Khamenei challenged the president with a taunting tweet: “You can’t do anything.”

Surprise: dead wrong.

Both Murphy and the Ayatollah responded, the former challenging the president’s authority to kill “the second most powerful person in Iran,” and Khameni with an ineffectual rocket attack.

Here’s one citizen’s after-action report.

Execution: If ever there were a surgical strike, this was it. Perfect execution. Two bad guys and their aides were eliminated without any collateral damage.

Authorization / Consultation: Despite delegitimizing semantics terming the killing an “assassination” and repositioning Soleimani as an anodyne national leader or military commander, he was the leader of the Quds Force, which was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Dept long ago in 2007.

Critics want proof that Soleimani was planning an imminent attack, as if the Quds Force leader wasn’t planning attacks every single day of his life.

Windows of opportunity for surgical strikes open rarely and close quickly. Delay for significant congressional involvement might have jeopardized the opportunity. Moreover, POTUS operates in a White House that leaks like a sieve. Anonymous op-ed writers rove the hallways alongside whistleblowers, who communicate constantly and coordinate closely with anti-Trump Democrats and media reporters, who lionize these moles.

Justification: If Soleimani’s decades of mischief and his terrorist designation weren’t enough, Soleimani had just orchestrated an attack on an American embassy, sovereign territory under international law.

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CT Hospital Tax Exploits Medicaid to Finance Irresponsible Spending


Hartford is exploiting an anomaly in the Medicaid program to extract billions from the U.S. Treasury, not to finance health care, but rather to finance otherwise unaffordable state spending, primarily state employee health care and retirement benefits.

This anomaly, or “shell game” (the term used in a U.S. Senate committee report) operates through the hospital tax. While all states impose this tax, no state imposes nearly as high a hospital tax rate. That’s what former Office of Policy and Management Director Ben Barnes told me in late 2017. He said Connecticut’s hospital tax scheme requires explicit federal approval, because the roughly 9% rate exceeds a 6% threshold that no other state exceeds.

The Medicaid program is a federal-state partnership providing medical care to poor citizens, with the federal government reimbursing states for about one-half to two-thirds of allowable fees and costs that hospitals and others charge Medicaid patients for medical care.  Under Obamacare, Connecticut and other states expanded Medicaid in return for much higher federal reimbursement percentages on the patients newly covered.

Apart from this straightforward reimbursement arrangement, states provide hospitals supplemental payments, with the federal government matching the payments, in order to achieve various policy objectives. The hospital tax exploits this supplemental payment mechanism in a manner which the General Accountability Office criticized strongly in a 2014 report.

Let’s start with some fundamental questions. Why is government taxing hospitals, which only serves to raise the cost of the nation’s primary providers of health care. Many are non-profit. Why tax non-profits? Many are for-profit and already pay corporate income taxes. Why levy a second tax? Hospital taxes are truly strange and wonderful.

Just before Christmas, the Connecticut General Assembly went into a special session, to approve unanimously a plan to extend the state’s stratospheric hospital tax for seven years. The plan will generate about $675 million annually, including $375 million in federal matching funds.


The plan requires the approval of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), which may not be forthcoming. In mid-2018, a U.S. Senate committee took a look at hospital taxes and issued a report calling hospital taxes “a shell game” and singling out Connecticut as a major perpetrator.

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  • here on The Red Line
  • CT Examiner - CT's Hospital Tax Exploits Medicaid To Finance Irresponsible State Spending, January 12, 2020
  • Republican American - State's Hospital Tax 'Shell Game' in Peril, January 15, 2020
  • Medicaid’s Federal-State Partnership is Subverted by States’ Hospital Tax Scheme

    The Medicaid program was established as a federal-state partnership, but it has become a partnership in name only as the result of a complicated maneuver in which states impose taxes on health care providers in order to extract tens of billions of dollars yearly from the U.S. Treasury via an arcane Medicaid financing mechanism. The scheme renders Medicaid almost entirely a federally financed — or over-financed — program.

    Almost every state employs this tax maneuver to
    trigger the annual release of matching funds over and above the money the
    federal government sends as its share of reimbursements to hospitals for
    medical services they provide to Medicaid patients. In a 2014
    report
    , the General Accountability Office
    criticized these so-called provider taxes, which fall most heavily upon
    hospitals.

    One might wonder why the government is taxing
    hospitals, which raises the cost of the nation’s primary providers of health
    care services. Many are nonprofit organizations; why tax nonprofits? Many are
    for-profit organizations and already pay corporate income taxes; why levy a
    second tax? It is truly strange and wonderful.

    Take Connecticut, for example.


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    Don’t count out Michael Bloomberg — his unconventional strategy might work

    Michael Bloomberg’s entry into the presidential race about a week ago was panned almost universally. Political pundits dismissed his bid, many with trite “truisms” about political tradecraft. First, that money can’t buy the presidency. Second, that his late entry is fatal. Third, that by skipping the first four contests, he will fall hopelessly behind. Fourth, his policy stands are all over the map, so he has no natural following or base.

    But maybe Bloomberg has a strategy. After all, if he’s so dumb, why’s he so rich? Let’s hazard some thoughts on possible strategy. Maybe Bloomberg is crazy like a fox.

    First, let’s be realistic, his $50 billion provides him a tremendous advantage.

    Second, pundits have deemed his late entry to be fatal, as if late entry alone were as fatal as stage four pancreatic cancer. What has passed as analysis has been limited to references to the failure of other late entrants. Yet, none of the referenced candidates had Bloomberg’s money, and virtually all failed for reasons other than late entry — and the same reasons have felled early entrants.

    In 2016, late entrant Rick Perry was felled by momentary brain freeze about the third in his trademark list of three federal agencies he’d shutter. However, the earliest entrant in the 1968 contest, George Romney, was eliminated well into his campaign by just one word, “brainwashed,” and in 1972 another early contender, Ed Muskie, by a single sob on the campaign trail just days before the New Hampshire primary.

    Third, skipping the first four contests has an obvious and compelling rationale. To flip a popular saying: You can’t lose it if you’re not in it. This is a variant of the successful strategy of American revolutionaries: They ran away to fight another day. Bloomberg will survive the first four contests. Every other candidate, except four at most, won’t.

    There are virtually no delegates at stake in these early contests — just 4 percent of the total. The winner(s) of those contests will have virtually nothing to show for the enormous effort entailed, except bragging rights, which then must be defended in the next of the four contests to meet elevated expectations and to maintain momentum.

    Bloomberg won’t have lost any meaningful ground, unless one candidate rolls the table, winning all four early contests. What are the odds of that? South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg has surged into the lead in Iowa and New Hampshire, but is mired in single digits in the following contest in South Carolina, where former vice president Joe Biden holds a commanding 19-point lead.

    If Bloomberg hasn’t lost anything, what has he gained by skipping the first four contests? Here it gets interesting.


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    The Endless Game of Whack-a-Toll-Mole

    Highway tolls in Connecticut have become a game of whack-a-mole. Gov. Ned Lamont’s toll mole has popped up again, just two weeks after having been whacked summarily by General Assembly leaders of his own party. The current mole is a variant of the governor’s original trucks-only campaign proposal. Things have gone full circle.

    The game started with candidate Lamont’s vague trucks-only plan. Once inaugurated, Lamont whacked his own proposal, saying that truck tolls alone wouldn’t raise enough money. He added cars, and presented a sketchy eight-page plan with a smothering network of as many as 80 gantry locations on interstate and state highways.

    Fierce public opposition and insufficient Democratic support whacked this proposal, but Lamont’s toll mole popped back up again as about 60 gantries in a system stripped of all state highways, except the Merritt Parkway.

    When this mole was whacked by continuing public opposition and Democratic intransigence, Lamont gave his own plan another good whack.


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    The surprising income equality in America

    This is a column about a column.

    On November 4, 2019, the Wall Street Journal published a column entitled “The Truth About Income Inequality,” by Phil Gramm, former U.S. Senator from Texas, and John Early, twice Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    The column makes a convincing case that the U.S. enjoys remarkable income equality –  not inequality.

    This reality flies in the face of the almost universal belief that the U.S. suffers from gross income inequality, which notion serves as the foundation of all the extravagant proposals from one side of the political spectrum, ranging from free college and Medicare for All to the wealth tax that Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders advocate.


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