Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday roundup and branding -- the Gazette, and beyond...

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"Costs of wildfires go to lawmakers": Or so reads the headline in the Gazette to Jennifer McKee's article. Hope springs eternal -- could it be that the tab for fighting wildfires was going to be split personally between Tester, Baucus, and Rehberg?

That might go a long ways towards explaining why Jon Tester is seen posing for photos in a nomex firefighting outfit as much as in a business suit lately.

But no, it is going to be us taxpayers footing the bill, after all.

More than that, the governor wants a bigger fund at his disposal and discretion. $16 million isn't enough, so he wants $25 million.

Let's hope Speaker Sales holds the line on that one.

Baucus votes to raise taxes on domestic oil production: Doug Mood of the Montana PSC, writing in the Missoulian, points out that Sen Baucus voted to raise taxes on domestic oil production. Such taxes raise the cost of gas at the pump (and for us to drive long distances regularly in Montana, this is no small matter,) raise the cost of doing business for those who use a lot of fuel (i.e. agriculture,) increase dependence on foreign oil (our domestic oil producers have to compete with foreign producers.)

Baucus was sticking it to domestic oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico, but indirectly this still hurts Montana's oil industry -- both production and refining.

Still waiting for a conservative "Golden Pen": This week's "Golden Pen" award from the Gazette editors goes to a writer who states that since the big tax surplus came from a strong economy rather than overtaxation, homeowners should donate their refund to charity. Nothing wrong with the exhortation to be charitable -- but we're waiting for a Golden Pen Award to go to someone who thinks Montana's taxes are too high. We'll be waiting, and waiting...

Montana is Canada's health-care backup system: In the AP article found in today's Gazette, a broad range of responses to the birth of Canadian quads in Great Falls due to health-care shortages in Canada are reported. There were some really interesting ones. Try this one, from Canada:

An official with the Calgary Health Region defends the move to send the Jepps to Great Falls.

"We did not have the capacity to take four new Level 3 babies, so the call goes to Edmonton and to Vancouver and across Western Canada to find out if there is bed space," explained Don Stewart. "We had found across Canada there were not four Level 3 beds available so that's when we looked to Montana, which is the closest facility to us with reasonable care and within a reasonable distance. That was only done after exhausting the options here at home.

"They (American critics) don't have all the facts and information, obviously," he added.

Stewart said there are 21 Level 3 incubators in Calgary, but a staffing shortage meant only 16 were in use when the Jepps were giving birth. Staffing levels will be increased by this fall, he added.

Um, actually we did have all the facts and information. The facts are that there are (as we pointed out) 7 cities in Alberta alone that are larger than Great Falls and that Calgary alone is larger than the entire state of Montana. The only additional information provided by this Canadian official is that the Canadian health-care system can't provide enough nurses to take care of those it is committed to helping.

Is this supposed to impress us with the superiority of Canadian health care?

And try this one from Jack Goldberg of "Friends of Medicare":

"It's clearly our view that the U.S. system is going to meet some demands better than ours, particularly for those who can pay the whole shot by themselves. But overall, the American system is far more expensive. And, of course, we all know it fails to insure some 50 million people," he noted.

"I think we need to appreciate that it's because of our publicly insured system that this couple was able to get access to a hugely expensive service in the United States that may very well be denied to tens of millions of Americans. So even what happened there is a point in favor of our system - that these people were able to get there," said Goldberg.

Let's get this straight. Is Goldberg implying that if a Great Falls couple without health insurance found themselves suddenly pregnant with quads -- they would have been sent to Canada for free health care, or that they would have been left to have their babies under a bridge?

One suspects that the quads would have been born right here in Montana, and that hospitals and doctors would have written off the costs that couldn't be met by state or federal assistance programs that might help.

In short, there are Canadians with health "insurance" who don't get treated, and Americans without health insurance who do get treated. Which is worse? How many Americans would want to suffer for months or even years on a waiting list for "elective" treatment like a hip replacement -- consoled by the fact that if they ever get it, it won't cost them anything?

Wyoming girl makes good: Incoming White House Press Secretary Dana Perino is an Evanston, WY native, and will be taking over for Tony Snow. This is a tough and thankless task, as Snow has discovered, and Perino is to be commended to stepping into those very big shoes.

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