Minnesotans Shouldering Hidden Anti-Obamacare Tax

This week the Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) announced that its member hospitals paid $226 million in “charity care” last year. The MHA is referring to instances when uninsured and underinsured patients are unable to pay their hospital bills, and the hospitals get stuck with the expenses.

While the term “charity care” is used by hospitals, hospitals don’t end up bearing the whole burden. They make up for the bills substantially by charging more to their insured patients, and insurance companies subsequently shift these higher costs to insurance premium payers.

This post isn’t meant to be a criticism of either the hospitals or the insurers. They would go out of business if they couldn’t shift costs.

Supporters of preserving the Anti-Obamacare Tax.

But it is meant to be a criticism of Obamacare obstructionists. The MHA numbers are a reminder that those who have been aggressively blocking efforts to reduce the number of uninsured and underinsured through Obamacare are responsible for maintaining what is akin to an enormous annual tax on premium payers. An Anti-Obamacare Tax.

Given that a fully implemented Obamacare is predicted to reduce the uninsured rate from today’s 50.7 million people to about 18.7 million, and the number of underinsured people by about 70%, leaders opposing Obamacare in Congress, state legislatures and federal courts are effectively blocking the elimination of a huge annual burden on American households. If the anti-Obamacare obstructionists win, we all keep paying this Anti-Obamacare Tax.

And it’s not a small tax. In Ramsey County, taxpayers are up in arms over a proposed $10 million per year tax for the Vikings stadium. This hidden Anti-Obamacare Tax is much more painful. The Center for American Progress finds “on average, 8 percent of families’ 2009 health care premiums—approximately $1,100 a year—is due to our broken system that fails to cover the uninsured.”

- Loveland

Signs That Vikings’ Poor Play May Be Impacting Stadium Push At Capitol

For a long time, I’ve maintained that the quality of the Vikings’ play has almost no impact on the team’s push for a state subsidy to finance a new stadium. But recent developments at the State Capitol are causing me to reconsider that opinion:

• Following yesterday’s twelfth loss of the season, Vikings stadium bill is now being considered as part the Omnibus Homeless Assistance Act.

• During a recent heated exchange on the House floor, a legislator was heard to be bitterly calling his opponent a “Loadholt.”

• During this morning’s opening prayer in the House, firebrand preacher Bradlee Dean referenced Vikings’ quarterback “Muslim Ponder.”

• A member of the Capitol press corps asked the staffer allegedly in an “inapporpriate relationship” with Senator Amy Koch, “who taught you pass defense, Leslie Frazier?”

• The Wisconsin Legislature reportedly has offered to pay for 100% of the new Vikings stadium, to keep the Vikings in the Packers’ division.

• To finance their stadium push, Ramsey County is now suggesting a tax on surging local sales of Prozac and Wellbutrin.

I’m not a lobbyist, but these do not strike me as good signs for the Vikings.

- Loveland

Dirty Job Dayton

So far in his tenure, Governor Mark Dayton has scarely met a controversial issue that he has not embraced. Think about the hallmarks of his tenure so far:

• He is attempting to sell the extremely unpopular taxpayer subsidies for professional sports owners, in the middle of a difficult economy.

• He has tenaciously advocated for an income tax increase on the state’s most powerful individuals.

• He has cut billions of dollars in safety net programs that are near and dear to him and his political base.

• He crossed the environmentalists on environmental permit streamlining and the teacher’s union on alternative teacher licensure, and these are both very powerful constituencies in his own party.

• He has taken on Native American gaming interests, perhaps the most financially powerful interest group that supports his party, by supporting a variety of ideas for expanding gambling.

• He has very aggressively championed the implementation of the much vilified Obamacare.

Nobody could ever accuse this guy of only choosing issues that are politically easy. Dayton’s tenure so far reminds me of a marathon showing of the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs, where the host engages in a variety of revolting vocations that very few of us are willing to enter.

But maybe he’s on to something. After all, today we learned in the Star Tribune’s poll that Dirty Job Dayton’s approval rating is a respectable 52%, much higher than midwest GOP Governors in Wisconsin (37% approve) and Ohio (36% approve). Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty had a 42% approval rating in his last year of office.

How does Dayton do it? He is not considered particularly glib or politically skilled. He has almost no electoral mandate. He certainly hasn’t been able to ride an economic boom to popularity. Continue reading

Occupy Arden Hills!

The high likelihood that Zygi Wilf’s dream of a taxpayer-funded stadium will go to the legislature next month amid still-growing protests against the immunities of gilded wealth is almost … almost … enough for me to feel sympathy for the guy. I interviewed him last summer for a magazine piece and — major news flash here — the development around his Arden Hills plan is everything. Zygi, who by the way does have a sense of humor and occasional flashes a side other than the highly disciplined business automaton, is first, second, third and probably fourth through twentieth a developer. After that he’s a football fan.

Wilf owns the Vikings because falling in with the loony Reggie Fowler scheme gave him access to assurances that the state’s political leaders — if that’s what you dare call Tim Pawlenty — would throw their weight behind something for the Vikings once the Twins had their deal done. Shockingly, Pawlenty kept spooning out the bullshit even as he left office, dropping the stadium ball (and everything else) in the next guy’s lap.

The next guy, Mark Dayton, may not be the slickest operator around. But like any politician with a head for the twists of history he knows with some certainty that no matter how much caterwauling and venom ricochets around prior to the deal getting done, the guy in office at the time the damned thing is built is a hero among the sports hagiographers — crusty old sports columnists, radio jocks with hundreds of hours to burn and fat cat sources to fellate with at least intermittent enthusiasm — when the gates open and the gawking public takes their $150 seats.

But this is 2011, and nothing at all like 2006. Five years post-bubble, as we see now in virtually every city of the western world, people, some maybe even pro football fans, are demonstrating that they are not only hip to the fixed game if casino-style financialization and the client-employee relationship between Wall St. and DC, but they’ve had enough of it. Damn it, and thank you.

So here’s Zygi, as I say, a pleasant enough guy who followed in his Holocaust-survivor father’s footsteps (the old man is still alive and sharp) and built quite a nice business for himself. He was thinking he’d do a bit more business in Minnesota by throwing up some shops and hotels around this football team he happens to own. Having done his savvy developer homework prior to buying in to the Vikings Wilf had every reason to believe that his Minnesota adventure would go down pretty much like every other owner’s (save a notable few), with the local fan base rallying/shaming their politicians into jacking up common rube taxes to have something as pretty from the Good Year blimp as they have in Denver and Dallas and Phoenix.

But no. Instead, Zygi has to figure out a way for an oddball DFL governor to lead the pro-tax charge … in the face of a $5 billion deficit that wasn’t really resolved last year, another deficit projected for this year, and while surrounded by Tea Party anti-tax zealots who might normally consent to a small-ish tax on the rabble if it meant protecting the plutocrats probably won’t dare pull anything like that in an election year, what with this “Occupy” crap going on and their approval ratings already in the toilet.

I loved the bit the other day from the state’s GOP leadership, demanding that Dayton guarantee X-number of DFL pro-tax votes to give the Republicans cover in exchange for them voting pro-tax. Christ. But you gotta give ‘em points for their craven candor.

Dayton’s argument will of course be that a billion-dollar stadium is a hell of a lot jobs when the construction industry is in a depression. But the obvious — and certain to very loud rejoinder to that argument — is that there is no end of heavy-duty infrastructure work that needs to be done around the metro, if not the state, that would put the same crews to work and return far greater value to the broader public — small businesses, big businesses and private citizens — than (another) football stadium. Moreover, where the anti-tax zealots are forever shrieking that the government doesn’t have the assets to fund … schools, roads, bridges, you name it … the Vikings have an entity with ample resources to — at the very least — loan them the cash to build the stadium. And by that I mean of course the NFL. (One of their former Goldman Sachs suits was in town earlier this week pressuring Dayton to, you know, move the ball up the field, taxpayer-wise.)

It would of course be a terrible precedent, a fabulously profitable sports league, underwriting capital investments in its network of teams. But I suspect the NFL’s credit rating is better than Minnesota’s, and what with TV networks willing to pay virtually any figure the league lays down when it comes time for their next TV contract, collateral would hardly be a problem.

I know the Kurt Zellers and Amy Kochs of the world profess to be confused by this OccupyWall Street/Minnesota/Duluth/Berlin/London nuttiness. “Why do they hate the job creators”? But wait and see what happens in St. Paul if this stadium tax thing looks like it has legs.

The Only Question: Who Gets Rolled in the Vikings Stadium Deal?

THIS POST HACKED.

- The Mgmt.

 

My Fourth Annual, “If I Were King, by God There’d be Some Changes Around Here” Rant.

THIS POST HACKED.

- The Mgmt.

Metrodome Collapse Winners and Losers

THIS POST HACKED.

“No Cost to Anybody.” At Least, Anybody Like Dick

THIS POST HACKED.

Vikings Stadium and Target Field Value Propositions Differ

THIS POST HACKED.

Zygi’s PR Hail Mary Puts Vikings In The Game

In the political world, there is something much worse than being opposed. It’s called being ignored.

And until Vikings owner Zygi Wilf and his team showed their teeth this week, they were being roundly ignored by the Legislature. The billionaire not only couldn’t get half a billion bucks from the Legislature, he couldn’t get a hearing, a cup of coffee, or a sideways glance.

But when the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission only offered Zygi millions in post-season revenues as he waits for his much bigger taxpayer financed pay day, the wounded Wilf howled.

“Shocked, exasperated, and extremely disappointed,” the Vikings penned to the Commission.

Holy moly! Shocked, exasperated AND extremely disappointed? As every good corporate communications toady knows, the Three Adjective Smackdown (TAS) is the WMD of business communications world. And today, the Vikings unleashed another rhetorical blitz, with sly talk about the need to “move on,” which of course is just two scary letters away from “move out.”

Finally, Zygi is flashing his New Jersey for us. Though he is speaking genteel corporatese, he is making it crystal clear that he is making an offer we can’t refuse.

And it’s working. Some are hating on Zygi to be sure, but he is no longer being ignored. Zygi has led the local news, and national sports news, for two days. He has DFL Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Keliher talking about a “purple ribbon commission” to study the issue. (Sure, it’s just her way of not taking a position during the gubernatorial campaign, but it’s more than the cold shoulder Wilf had been getting.)

And today, Wilf’s tantrum has generated follow-up stories about the mythical prospects of the LA Vikings Scenario, which has the purple face-paint types curled up in a fetal position. All that buzz has made Wilf’s well-timed whining the week’s top “talker” on local radio stations.

Wilf is a long, long way from winning. To get out of the big Teflon dome in Minneapolis, he is going to need to get a lot better at operating under the big gold dome in St. Paul. But he will eventually win, and the PR move he put on the pols this week was nearly as nifty as the move Purple Jesus put on the 49ers to find an obscure receiver in the back of the end zone. Skoal Vikings!

- Loveland

expense nice

Potomac Fever Meets Purple Pride

shell-gameThe odds of Governor Tim Pawlenty backing new government spending this year seems about as long as the odds of Brett Favre going a season without an interception. So I was stunned to read that the Governor is publicly musing about a massive new government spending project.

What could possibly tempt a pol building his presidential campaign around an “I held the line on government spending” claim to go on a spending spree? A job creation package to show that he can do better than President Obama? A faith-based subsidy of some type to purchase presidential primary votes from the religious right?

No, Pawlenty is publicly flirting with something much more surprising — a taxpayer subsidized Vikings stadium:

“It’s fair to say the Metrodome has served us well, but its time is fading. And so we’ve got to figure out a way to keep the Vikings here.”

Now, the Vikings are not a cheap date. Pawlenty knows a carnation and night out at the Olive Garden isn’t going to “keep the Vikings here.” The Vikings’ wealthy owners have made it plain that they want one thing and they want it now — two-thirds of the nearly $1 billion it will cost to build the equity-boosting sports palace they covet.

We all understand the shell game being contemplated. If the Governor does “figure out a way,” it will be shifting the burden and blame to a level of government down the food chain. That’s what he has done with the Twins stadium, local government assistance and countless other back door tax increases. Sleight of hand conservatism.

Still, a government subsidy of well into the nine figures for a billionaire? In the midst of a presidential campaign built around “I held the line on government spending?” Really?

- Loveland

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