Favorite Link Friday Round-Up Week of June 17, 2016 - P.O.W. Report

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Favorite Link Friday Round-Up Week of June 17, 2016

SB 128: Imperfect solution, but at least a solution

By Suzanne Downing

We are in a recession.

There – we acknowledged the grenade on the table. Now, to explain:

In the best of all possible worlds, Alaska is going to lose 10,000 to 15,000 jobs over the next 24 months, according to credible analysts. Some say that could go as high as 30,000. The Chicken Littles are saying 40,000.

Unlike 1986, Alaska is not riding a wave of national economic failure. The nation’s economy is a walk in the park compared to what we’re facing in our state. Today, we are riding the collapse of the price of oil, Alaska’s economic bread and butter. With a decrease in oil prices comes a loss of 25 percent of our gross state product.

Lawmakers are stuck with a budget they can’t trim because there are just enough recalcitrant members who believe every item and service is essential, and we have a governor who must dance with the big spending Democrats who brought him to the party.

Watching our state’s every move are Moody’s and Standard and Poor, and they have their fingers on the trigger when it comes to our bond rating. Once that goes, no small business owner in the state will be able to get a decent loan to build a warehouse or fund a capital improvement, because the banks will know the spiral is out of their control. Lenders will be much more risk averse when it comes to home loans.

PART OF THE SOLUTION

Senate Bill 128 is not perfect. Some Alaskans don’t like it because cuts to government were not deep enough. They’re right – the cuts were not what we expected.

Now, the funding mechanism must be put in place – SB 128 takes care of most of the problem, without implementing an income tax. Most conservatives can live with that. What we can’t live with is a haircut on our Permanent Fund dividends, plus a host of new taxes that would cost us thousands more of income we actually did earn. [Please Read the Full Article Here]


Alaska Republicans Bail Out ObamaCare

Although the Republican Party remains opposed to ObamaCare, the GOP-dominated Alaska legislature just passed a bill to bail out the state’s ObamaCare exchange, which is already beginning to show signs of a death spiral. The bill would use an existing tax on health insurance to further subsidize exchange coverage for Alaskans.

ObamaCare, of course, has been a flop in all 50 states, but Alaska is one of the hardest-hit. It had high healthcare costs even before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) came along because of its isolation, its large rural population, and other factors. “But state officials say Obamacare’s robust coverage requirements have exacerbated those problems,” wrote Politico. The ACA mandates a variety of “essential health benefits” that all health-insurance policies must include whether beneficiaries want them or not. In addition, it requires insurers to cover everyone who seeks insurance at roughly the same premiums regardless of pre-existing conditions. This has led, in Alaska as in all other states, to a huge influx of sick people into the individual insurance market without a concomitant inflow of healthy people to offset the costs of covering the sick — this despite the fact that almost 90 percent of Alaskans buying exchange coverage are eligible for premium-assistance subsidies.

As a result, insurance rates are spiking, a problem particularly pronounced in a low-population state such as Alaska. “Just a few especially sick patients have put a strain on insurers,” reported Politico. “In the individual market, nearly 500 enrollees with severe medical conditions cost Alaska insurers about $59 million in less than two years, according to state documents.” For one insurer, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield, a mere 37 customers cost the company $11.2 million in the first half of 2015 alone. According to an analysis from consulting firm Avalere Health, the lowest-cost “silver” plan in Alaska cost $965 a month (not including subsidies), the highest rate in the nation. Premiums rose about 30 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2016, and their growth shows no signs of slowing down.

Enter the legislature, which wants to raid the state’s coffers to the tune of $55 million to help cover medical expenses for those individuals who are taking exchange insurers to the cleaners. The funds would come from an existing tax on insurance premiums, but since that money currently goes into the state’s general fund, noted Politico, “redirecting it to bolster Obamacare has spurred criticism from some lawmakers because of the state’s massive budget deficit.” [Full Source]


Eurasian Metals Discovered in Alaska from Centuries Before the Arrival of Europeans to the New World

A new study of two bronze objects discovered in northwest Alaska shows that they provide the first known evidence of the presence of metals from Eurasia in prehistoric North America. The artifacts apparently came to the Americas several centuries before the first official contact with Europeans occurred.

“This is not a surprise, based on oral history and other archaeological finds it was just a matter of time before we had a good example of Eurasian metal that had been traded. We believe these alloys were made somewhere in Eurasia and marketed in Siberia, then crossed the Bering Strait, where they were acquired by the predecessors of the Inuit, also known as the Thule culture in Alaska." Explained Kory H. Cooper, member of the scientific team and Purdue University, in remarks published by the new portal Noticias de la Ciencia.

The results of the study were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science . They show that the cylindrical piece of cord and belt buckle are made of a bronze alloy with lead. The leather belt in the buckle has been radiocarbon dated, resulting in a date of between 500 and 800 years ago, although the metal could be even older. [Read the Whole Article Here]

Video of the Week


Historical Anecdote: 

Two Native American tribes go to war with each other... over salt.

The events that led to the Salt War, as it was called, were these: A tribe called the Salt Boilers had occupied the salt springs country for many years, centuries may be. Some Frenchmen at Vincennes went down there with kettles aiming to have a monopoly on the salt. The Indians attacked them, and killed one or two. The rest left, and told their friends at Kaskaskia, and a war-party went over there to punish the Salt Boilers, who had enlisted the support of the Shawnees.

The two tribes met at the depot of Julius de Rouche, which was on the hill now called Frankfort Heights. The Kaskaskia were outnumbered and fled, with the Shawnee in pursuit. At the bank of the Au Vase (Big Muddy) there was a scrap. The Kaskaskia escaped to the east bank of Little Muddy, at the old “Battle Mound,” took shelter behind it and received the Shawnee with much slaughter. They were routed, but the Shawnee did not pursue further. This took place about the year 1754, just prior to the French and Indian War. Source: Musgrave, Jon. “Early History of the Salines.” Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw: The Real Story of the Old Slave House and America's Reverse Underground R.R. Marion, IL: IllinoisHistory.com, 2004. 60. Print

Read More: Favorite Link Friday Round-Up Week of June 10, 2016 

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