The elephant in the room
As Wisconsin’s legislators dive into the upcoming budget and the Joint Finance Committee ends its listening sessions across the state, there’s one demographic that is the elephant in the room. I’m referring to the demographic of retired seniors, and others, living on fixed incomes.
This demographic will do nothing but increase in the upcoming years. Currently we are being ignored at the local and state level.
The antiquated funding statutes of the Wisconsin Technical College System are still in place even though it is a public higher education system and completely an individual choice to attend. The antiquated funding statutes were created before the Vietnam War was over. Technology was in its infancy and the internet didn’t exist, nor the modern methods of class delivery that exist today.
At the local level it is taxation without representation as these 16 district boards across the state are appointed, not elected. These district boards have the ability to borrow millions of dollars with no state oversight, nor are they accounted for at the state level.
The K-12 system has experienced a level of school district referenda that has been unequalled. $1.4 billion dollars of passed referenda in the November 2018 election and three-quarters of a billion dollars in the April 2019 election. The creation of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Education was to address the funding and other issues with the K-12 system. The BRC’s report didn’t address the tidal wave of school district referenda.
Our elected officials seem to think raising property taxes is the answer. Thus, the elephant in the room continues. The plight of retired seniors and others living on fixed incomes continues and the elephant is getting larger every year.
Officials don’t put residents first
As a citizen of the city of Altoona, I recently attended a City Council meeting that, as part of its agenda, included a public hearing and subsequent vote on a new road that is being proposed to enter the Windsor Forest subdivision from Third Street as part of the new Hillcrest subdivision development.
I am extremely disappointed with the lack of responsiveness and engagement all council members have had with the neighbors with whom this proposal is most directly going to affect. At repeated occasions — various public hearings in addition to the most recent council meeting — multiple citizens have raised legitimate and serious concerns regarding the negative implications this new road will have, even citing factual data from respected sources such as the city’s police department and the Department of Transportation. Alternative solutions were also proposed by these citizens in an effort to work cohesively with the City Council.
Both the proposed solutions as well as the concerns were ignored on multiple occasions, most egregiously at the above-mentioned council meeting where there was no effort made by council members to address any of the citizens’ concerns prior to unanimously voting to approve the new road. It seems as though neither the City Council members nor the mayor are fulfilling their duties to represent the citizens who have elected them into office; they are more interested in filling the city’s coffers with increased tax revenue, courting business development such as Casey’s Store and the Winchester Way development in addition to this most recent proposal.
I would strongly urge any prospective citizen of the city of Altoona to proceed with caution when considering buying any property within city boundaries as it is becoming exceedingly clear that this city’s government truly does not place its current citizens’ best interests first.
Why Medicare is a money pit
According to Axios (a news and information company), Medicare’s prescription program, Part D, paid $32.5 billion for the top 50 prescribed drugs in 2016. If it had the option of negotiating directly with pharma companies — it’s now blocked by law from doing so — and got the same prices as the Veterans Administration, it would have paid $14.5 billion less.
The following is a portion of an email I sent to Sens. Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Sean Duffy on March 15: Why can pharmaceutical companies charge Medicare more than they charge the Veterans Administration for the same prescription drugs?
Annual lobbying on pharmaceuticals/health products was more than $280 million in 2018. Drugmakers have spent $2.3 billion lobbying Congress over the past decade. This may explain why there hasn’t been any significant legislation related to prescription drug prices. Both Wisconsin senators and at least six congressmen received financial contributions in 2018 from pharmaceutical companies.
Here’s a fun fact: The five big technical companies, often referred to as the FAANGs — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google — get a lot of attention in the press related to the revenue they generate. Well, stop the presses, the biggest five insurance and health benefits companies have greater revenues than the FAANGs. The top five health insurers and benefit managers anticipate 2019 revenue of $787 billion, compared with $784 billion for the FAANGs. CVS, the biggest of the health care group, expects revenues of $246 billion.
I think this is a significant issue with the cost of Medicare and deserves a reply from our senators.