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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

John Kline - The Student Loan Watchdog Enigma

Category: John Kline
Posted: 03/25/15 21:30

by Dave Mindeman

John Kline is a busy guy. He is out there fighting for students. "Helping out" on student loans. Making things better for Native American education.

The increase in funding ($60 million) for Indian schools is interesting to note. It is certainly needed....

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe Reservation in northwestern Minnesota... is emblematic of problems in Indian schools across the nation. The school's list of grievances include a rodent infestation and a roof that caves during heavy snowfalls.

It is worth noting that the "Bug" school, as it has been nicknamed, has gotten a lot of publicity lately, and Rep. Betty McCollum has cited its problems in Congressional hearings.

I guess it's Kline to the rescue?

Funny, these problems in the Indian Schools are not a new phenomena....and Kline has certainly had many opportunities in the past to fix this problem. But is it possible that he is feeling a little bit more heat this time around....going into a Presidential election year and a growing list of challengers?

But another noteworthy Kline action caught my attention.

Kline, the student debt enigma....the For-Profit College protector.....the student loan rate raiser....has called out President Obama for talking about taxation on 529 plans.

The reason behind Kline's recent editorial spiel was President Obama's misguided idea to tax 529 college savings plans. Although the president swiftly abandoned the initiative, Kline, the self-proclaimed pork-cutting conservative, was inspired to pen the letter calling out his political foe.

For the record, 529 plans have become a dream for the 1% in that they are a means of tax exempting huge amounts of the earnings in these plans for the wealthy. A program which was meant to help the average person save ahead for college tuition and not have to pay tax on the earned money in the program if used for college..... has become another 1% tax shelter.

You can set up as many 529 plans as you wish and you can contribute the amount that is needed to cover cost of an education -- which could be Harvard? MIT? etc. The earnings in the plan are tax free if used for educational purposes - a broadly expanding definition is involved. And the beneficiary can be changed without affecting the plan. A plan that has ongoing earnings can offer tax free education for a wealthy family forever.

Meanwhile the rest of us struggle with massive student debt - which John Kline has contributed to by allowing For-Profit colleges to use deceptive recruiting practices and by setting Federal student loan rates via a marker that has increased the rate this year and looks like it will increase it again next year.

Yes, Kline is likely to market himself as a watchdog for college students. Sadly, Kline the watchdog is just looking out the money guys.
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Category: Vikings Stadium
Posted: 03/25/15 19:57

by Dave Mindeman

Minnesota is going to have an MLS Soccer franchise. That's great. But look out people, we are about to get hit with another public subsidy stadium.

Major League Soccer has committed to Minnesota, awarding an expansion franchise to start playing in 2018 with the expectation an outdoor stadium will be built before then.

What is particularly galling about this one is that the franchise owner is Bill McGuire, the former CEO of United Health. Here is an interesting tidbit about Mr. McGuire....

William McGuire, who served as UnitedHealth's CEO from 1991 to 2006, collected $286 million when he retired.

Ironically, the suggested cost of a new soccer stadium would be between $100 and $200 million. So would it be possible for Bill McGuire to finance and own his own stadium? Why, yes, I think he very well could.

Will he actually do that?

Ahhh, I would say that the public trough will attempt to be tapped.

The political climate for stadium financing is pretty well dried up...but we have heard that before. And we have Target Field, the Vikings stadium, and even the St. Paul Saints getting aid from Minnesota citizens.

The precedent is too tempting to not make the attempt. And why put your own money into stadium building when you can use your big bucks to lobby the legislature into doing it for you?

I'm not much of a soccer fan, but it is a growing sport. Watch this space.

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MNSure Critic And Non-Supporter, Rep. Mack Says She Will Fix It?

Category: Health Care
Posted: 03/22/15 01:14

by Dave Mindeman

Rep. Tara Mack voted against the creation of a health care exchange. She worked to delay its implementation. When the state hurried its way into making an exchange, she offered no suggestions or help. When MNSure had its rollout problems, she was quick to criticize but offered no solutions. When the exchange successfully enrolled 183,000 Minnesotans, she focused on the software issues and glitches. When studies showed that Minnesota's uninsured rate declined by 40%, she said nothing.

But now we are supposed to believe that Rep. Tary Mack is going to work on fixing the system and "make it better".

Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley....sponsors House File 5, which would direct the commerce commissioner to ask the federal government for a 1332 waiver under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The waiver would allow qualified health plans to be sold outside of MNsure -- but eligible consumers would still receive federal subsidies. We should expand choice without making insurance purchasing as "frustrating, awkward and inconvenient" as MNsure has made it, Mack said.

In other words, Mack is working to give the power back to the insurance companies.

If, as Mack suggests, we take enrollment outside of MNSure, then insurers would have to have access to eligibility data to allow for tax subsidies. That would require them to have IRS data. Some have suggested that MNSure could still determine eligibility, but that outside insurers could then offer the plans with the subsidies. If we just let insurers get access to our private financial data, how can our data be protected? And if we use MNSure to determine that eligibility, then why would we even need the fix? The determination of eligiblity has been the main problem for MNSure from the beginning. Once the eligibility has been verified, MNSure becomes a simple shopping exchange.

Frankly, we have already been working to fix the initial problems that plagued MNSure - an IT nightmare. During the second enrollment, many of those problems went away. We still have things to fix, but what Rep. Mack is proposing is to make another major change in how this system operates....and what guarantee do we have that more software and data privacy issues don't occur?

Having our own state exchange has increased importance as the Supreme Court makes its determination on the ACA language involving those exchanges. We need to protect the Minnesotans that now have health insurance that they couldn't get before the ACA.

Rep. Mack is not going to give that protection. And her past record on MNSure has never been involved with support for the exchange - it has always been an effort to destroy it.

How can we trust someone like that to offer new legislation on this issue?
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