Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky’

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Truth and consequences

Posted: 27 December 2015 in Uncategorized
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We already knew that elections, like the governor’s race in Kentucky, have consequences.

But those consequences are even worse than we thought, because newly installed Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is making moves that, in some cases, are consistent with and, in other cases, go against promises he made during the campaign.

For example, Bevin reversed former Gov. Beshear’s 8 June executive order that raised the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for hundreds of the lowest paid workers in state government’s executive branch and the employees of vendors who signed contracts with the executive branch.

About 800 state workers who have already gotten raises will be able to keep them, but new hires will now have to start at the lower pay rate. In the order, Bevin hinted that he would prefer the state have no minimum wage at all: “Wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government,” he said.

That move is consistent with Bevin’s campaign promise to make Kentucky an anti-labor, Right to Work state.

Bevin has also reversed a move by his Democratic predecessor that had restored the voting rights of about 140,000 former felons, which runs counter to promises he made during the campaign to keep the restoration of voting rights in place.

He even told reporters in November that he would stand up to his own party on the issue and convince them it was the right thing to do. Now, thanks to his order, tens of thousands of Kentuckians will not only lose the opportunity to regain their voting rights, they will also be permanently unable to serve on a jury, run for office, or obtain a vocational license.

The only explanation Bevin offered for the reversal is that he believes “it is an issue that must be addressed through the legislature and by the will of the people.”

Kentucky is one of a tiny handful of states where former felons have to individually petition the governor to restore their civil rights after they have fully completed their sentences — a process that can be arbitrary and humiliating. As a result, one in five African Americans in the state are disenfranchised. Studies have found that ex-felons who have their voting rights restored feel more invested in their communities and are less likely to end up back in the criminal justice system.

What we’re seeing in Kentucky, then, is a set of truth and consequences even worse than people had imagined. And Bevin hasn’t even started in on Kynect, Kentucky’s version of the Affordable Care Act, which he has promised to dismantle.

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It used to be the case that, for the most part, the Koch brothers were bottom-feeders when it came to higher education. They approached (or were approached by) financially strapped schools that were only too willing to sell their academic-freedom souls for relatively small infusions of cash.

The exception was, of course, George Mason University, the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which took in just under $80 million from Koch foundations from 2005 to 2014.

Now, the grants are getting larger and the recipients much richer and more prominent. In some cases, the Koch brothers are supporting right-wing, free-market scholars and programs; in other cases, they’re buying the prestige based on an association with highly ranked colleges and universities. And, of course, a mixture of the two.

Here are three recent examples:

Earlier this year, the University of Louisville announced the receipt of $6.3 million from the foundations of businessmen “Papa” John Schnatter ($4.64 million) and Charles Koch ($1.66 million) to create the new John H. Schnatter Center for Free Enterprise.

Rebecca Peek, a U of L senior and member of the Student Labor Action Project, said she was ashamed of the school’s agreement.

“It will certainly affect curriculum and limit the viewpoints taught to business students,” she said in a statement. “As a student at the University of Louisville I want to know that I am being presented with information for the sake of knowledge, not to promote the personal agenda of a private interest group.”

The same pair has donated a combined $12 million to create a similar “free enterprise” teaching institute at the University of Kentucky.

At UK, the grant will establish a “John H. Schnatter Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise” and expand the work of a current capitalism program underwritten by BB&T bank, according to a university news release. About $10 million will go to the institute. The remaining $2 million gives Schnatter naming rights to an atrium in the new business school building.

Finally, the University of Notre Dame has just announced that its International Security Center has received a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Foundation to further develop and expand its role as a forum for broader scholarship on U.S. foreign policy.

“We’re delighted to work with the Koch Foundation on our International Security Center, which we’ve been committed to for many years,” said John T. McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “We think it’s important for academics to have a voice in policy debates about international affairs, and we believe our scholars’ research can inform those policy debates.”

Just to be clear, Notre Dame has the tenth largest endowment in the nation, with $8.2 billion in its fund at the end of fiscal year 2014.

Update

Here is a link (pdf) to the list of of colleges and universities that, according to the Koch family foundations and philanthropy, have received grants from the Charles Koch Foundation.

The Center for Public Integrity has a list of 16 colleges and universities that received at least $25,000 in Koch foundation funding in 2014. Apparently, the University of Dayton in Ohio has decided it is no longer interested in receiving Koch-connected money.

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Elections, of course, have consequences. In the case of Kentucky, Republican Governor-elect Matt Bevin has threatened to dismantle Kynect (the Kentucky version of the Affordable Care Act) and to create a Right to Work state.

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Just so we understand what stands to be lost as a result of this election, Kentucky led the nation in the largest drop in the percentage of residents without health insurance from 2013 to 2014.

The percentage of uninsured Kentuckians dropped to 8.5 percent in 2014 from 14.3 percent in 2013. The drop of 5.8 percentage points was double the national decrease of 2.9 percent. The report says 366,000 Kentuckians were uninsured in 2014, down 250,000 from 616,000 in 2013.

The vast majority of the newly insured enrolled in the expanded Medicaid program, which covers previously ineligible individuals whose income is up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

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In addition, Kentucky (pdf) had 189,000 union members in 2014. (In addition to these members, another 30,000 wage and salary workers in Kentucky were represented by a union on their main job or covered by an employee association or contract while not union members themselves.) Thus, union members accounted for 11.0 percent of wage and salary workers in Kentucky, just under the national average of 11.1 percent.

According to the secretary of state’s office, election turnout in Kentucky was only 30.7 percent. Bevin (with 52 percent of the vote) defeated Democrat Jack Conway (who received 43 percent) to become only the second Republican governor in the state in four decades. Bevin’s election gives Republicans control of the executive branch along with a commanding majority in the state Senate. Democrats still have an eight-seat majority in the state House of Representatives.