Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● Georgia should create a guest-worker program to establish that immigrants available for hire are here legally. A study of the feasibility of such an effort is part of legislation just passed by the General Assembly. Some businesses and farmers, fearful of the consequence of hiring laborers who turn out to be illegal, despite their good-faith verification efforts, opposed legislative efforts to crack down. The solution is for Georgia to certify a pool of eligibles, at least until the feds get serious about perfecting E-Verify.
● The charges hospitals levy and the pennies-on-the-dollar reimbursement they expect and get from government are wildly at odds. As Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter M.B. Pell reveals, markups at some Atlanta-area hospitals exceed 500 percent and on the low side are more than 200 percent. Grady’s is 265 percent. That’s a problem for the self-insured and others who choose not to buy private insurance. Their rate should be only slightly higher than Medicare’s. Stop the games.
● AJC headline: “Suburbs’ support for transit growing.” It’s not minds that are changing. It’s new people. As census data confirms, people from the urban core find the schools, jobs and lifestyle they want beyond the Perimeter. The dirt doesn’t move or die; the people who occupy it do.
● One of the misperceptions that has come out of the Legislature’s tax overhaul effort is that the experts who crunch numbers and advise elected officials have a stake beyond that of the ordinary Georgian in pushing their ideas of “good tax policy.” The information they gather to shape their thinking and what emerges or doesn’t is the full responsibility of elected officials. Likewise, whether it’s coherent tax policy or achieves any strategic purpose is, too. Every new governor and legislator attempting to change public policy should keep in mind this role-defining commentary from House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal, R-Bonaire: “We weren’t asking them for political advice or ideological advice,” he said. “We were asking them to model [tax revenue] scenarios and give us results.”
● The experts and those who provide public policy options to elected officials do, however, have a right to expect that clear guidance will come from elected movers and shakers on precisely what tax revision is expected to achieve. Anything more than tinkering requires the active involvement of a governor — and Georgia was between governors when this commission delivered. It is fair tax policy to shift whole-heartedly from income to consumption, and to design a system that does that, but that does require the majority’s and the governor’s courage of conviction. Cutting taxes for every Georgian is not an option. It’s mathematically impossible, one expert asserted.
● Commencement season is a reminder that President Barack Obama missed his calling. He could have gotten rich writing speeches for others.
● Gov. Nathan Deal signs, as he should, legislation to allow Georgia to join others in designing and implementing a health care compact run by states. The approach requires congressional approval, so it may be symbolic. Until this president is re-elected and there’s no chance of a veto override by a Republican House and Senate, Deal should stick with the handful of other governors who are declining federal money to kick off the exchanges. Conservatives have to be wary, seriously wary, of that segment of Republicans who would be, as Newt Gingrich once said, tax collectors for the welfare state. Once an exchange apparatus is on the books, they’ll grow it, yield to insurance-industry lobbyists and tinker with it to make it “better.” Fight first.