Caution – GS Labs’ Covid Testing Site Ahead

Back Off.

That’s my advice to Oregonians considering going to a pop-up Covid testing site operated by GS Labs, an Omaha, Nebraska–based company.

I took a break Friday morning and stopped by the GS Labs pop-up site at a former restaurant 10935 SW 68th Parkway (Google says this is in Portland; GS Labs says it’s in Tigard). A worker told me I needed to schedule an appointment online and the test cost would be $179, but I might be able to get the testing center to agree to a 50% discount. He added that GS Labs only takes commercial insurance or cash payments, and does not accept Medicare, federal health insurance that covers much of the elderly population most vulnerable to COVID-19.

(NOTE: Medicare pays for COVID-19 tests performed by a labsuch as PCR or antigen/rapid tests, at no cost to you when the test is ordered by an authorized health care professional. Those in a Medicare Advantage Plan should check with their plan to see if their plan offers coverage and payment for at-home tests.)

The GS Labs appointments website allows visitors to pick a location in eight states across the country, view available appointments and select a payment option, either “Book with Insurance (*Rapid Antigen and Standard PCR only)“ or “Book Rapid PCR (*Out of Pocket only $299)”

Formed in January 2020, GS Labs spun out of a clinic, 88 Med, owned by City+Ventures, a privately held Omaha, Nebraska-based investment and development company. 88 Med specialized in cosmetic procedures and hormone treatments.

City+Ventures was founded in 2012 to pursue strategic business and real estate opportunities both locally and regionally. Two men, Danny White and Chris Erickson, co-founded the company and are now co-owners. White has a B.S. in Business Administration from Skidmore College in New York. Erickson has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Iowa State University.

The company’s website says, “We are a group of business savvy, community-minded individuals….” Based on its covid testing practices, “community minded” hardly applies.

Some health insurers have refused to pay GS Labs’ fees, contending that the laboratory is price-gouging during a public health crisis, the New York Times reported in Sept. 2021.

A Blue Cross plan in Missouri, for example, has sued GS Labs over its prices, seeking a ruling that would void $10.9 million in outstanding claims. In August 2021, the insurer claimed that the fees were “disaster profiteering” and in violation of public policy.

Suburban Seattle-based Premera Blue Cross sued GS Labs on Oct. 14, 2021, alleging that the company was exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by overcharging for COVID-19 testing. Premera alleged that GS charged prices ranging from $380 to $979 per test, which often amounted to 10 times more than what other labs were charging.

Premera further alleges GS Labs “peppers its claims with falsehoods,” including false diagnoses to get higher payments, and it frequently fails to maintain high quality levels in its testing and reporting of results.  

According to Pharmacy Practice News, Premera’s suit alleged that GS Labs has improperly filed claims for more than $26 million worth of COVID-19 tests. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, which filed a lawsuit against GS Labs in July 2021, alleged that the lab provider billed $9.2 million in improper charges for COVID-19 testing.

In an Oct. 2021 interview with the Omaha World-Herald, Chris Erickson said he and his partners are proud of their testing business. He said it helped consumers navigate an unpredictable pandemic at a time of inadequate testing options. Fees billed to insurers reflect a high level of service and the cost of building an infrastructure of equipment and trained personnel in an “insanely short period of time,” Erickson said.

It’s not just insurance companies that are less then enthralled with GS Labs.

Indeed.com reviews of working for GS Labs are largely harsh. Typical are the following:

“Management seems to have their own motives (money)…Management seems disorganized, unfair, and corrupt based on their own agendas.”

“… it is clear, they work with no morals, no ethical treatment of employees and you are just a number…Greedy company,”

“It’s almost like being in middle school. If you are lazy, unmotivated and are just looking for a paycheck, then GSLabs Omaha is the place for you.”

“Patients are being lied to just so this company can make a profit.”

So, what to do if you want a Covid test?

The Biden Administration announced today that it is purchasing one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to give to Americans for free. A half-billion tests will be available for order on January 19th and will be mailed directly to American households. The initial program will allow four free tests to be requested per residential address. Starting January 19th, Americans will be able to order their tests online at COVIDTests.gov, and tests will typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

(NOTE: Guard against scammers trying to steal your personal information. When ordering tests, use the official, secure government website: https://COVIDtests.gov. Watch out for phone scammers, tooIf you get a phone call requesting information so that free at-home tests can be mailed to you, hang up — it’s a scam!)

The Administration is also highlighting that there are over 20,000 free testing sites across the nation, including many pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy free testing program, as well as federal surge free testing sites, with more free testing sites opening each week. Millions of free, at-home COVID-19 tests have also been delivered to thousands of community health centers and rural health clinics to distribute to their patients, with more delivered each week. 

In addition, the Administration provided schools $10 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to get tests to K-12 school districts. And, the Administration invested nearly $6 billion in ARP funding to cover free testing for uninsured individuals, and support testing in correctional facilities, shelters for people experiencing homelessness, and mental health facilities.
Just this week, the Administration also announced that starting January 15th, private health insurance companies will be required to cover at-home COVID-19 tests for free—and made an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available to schools nationwide, each month.

In the meantime, the Oregon Attorney General has issued a consumer warning:

“The huge demand for Covid-19 testing of all kinds—at home tests, rapid antigen tests, PCR tests–brings bad actors and some businesses trying to make a quick buck out from the shadows,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said. “We see it all the time in moments of desperation like this testing urgency.”

So hang in there.

If Kristof Can Do It, So Can I

Gov. Abbott will pick the Texas secretary of state, who gets vast new  powers from GOP elections bill

If the New York City Council can approve a bill allowing 800,000 non-citizen New Yorkers to vote in municipal elections, surely Oregon can bend its rules to let Nicholas Kristof run for governor.

Oregon already has made it clear it has no problem with one of its U.S. Senators living for extended periods in New York City in a $8.6 million 19th century townhouse.

Kristof, who was born in Chicago, has lived in Yamhill, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Beijing, Tokyo and New York City. He was registered to vote in New York from 2000 until December 2020 and voted there as recently as November 2020. He only registered as an Oregon voter on Dec. 28, 2020.  

But let’s be honest. Other politicians have maneuvered around election residency requirements.

In 2010, then-former-senator Dan Coats was trying to win back his old seat in Indiana  when it was reported that even though he was from the state, he’d been living and voting in Virginia since 2000. But, as Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say on Saturday Night Live, “Never mind.” Coats won the election anyway. 

Richard Lugar served as a U.S. Senator representing Indiana from 1977 to 2013, even though he sold his Indianapolis house in 1977 and moved to Washington, D.C. His excuse? He told reporters he and his wife wanted to keep their family together and they couldn’t afford two houses.

Even though Kristof has moved around a lot, in a statement posted on Twitter on Jan. 6, 2022, he said he owes his “entire existence” to Oregon.  “This state welcomed my dad as a refugee, and he put down roots here,” he wrote. “Oregon has provided a home to me and my family as those roots deepened. Because I have always known Oregon to be my home, the law says that I am qualified to run for governor.”

Kristof has also put forward an opinion from William Riggs, a justice on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1998 to 2006, saying Kristof is an Oregon resident because he has frequently described Yamhill as “home” and has always considered himself an Oregonian. 

“Candidate’s conduct over decades and in recent years, as well as his description of Oregon as ‘home’ in contemporaneous writings, leaves no doubt that he has considered Oregon to be his home; in these circumstances, having voted in New York does not indicate otherwise,” Riggs wrote.

I’m so convinced by the logic of Kristof’s arguments that I’m thinking of running for governor of Connecticut.

All gubernatorial candidates in Connecticut must be:

  • at least 30 years old
  • a registered voter
  • a resident of Connecticut for at least six months on the day of the election

I’m way past 30 years old. OK, I first registered to vote in Colorado when I was 18 and I’ve been a registered voter in Oregon since 1984, but I can change that to Connecticut in a wink. And as far as being a resident of Connecticut for at least six months on the day of the next election, I’ve considered Wallingford, CT my “home” from the time I was born. 

Ask anybody about my connections to Connecticut. They go back a long way.

In 1833, at the age of 20, a fellow named William of Scotland departed from the port of Greenock and embarked on a voyage to America on the ship “Moscow”, a 461-ton, 80 HP Iron Screw Steamer built by Palmer Brothers of New Castle. A tempestuous six weeks later, the ship docked in New York City. On July 9, 1838, William married Mary Hall, 29, and in 1842 they built a home in Wallingford, CT where they lived for the rest of their lives.

After Mary died in 1845, William married Temperance Hall. They had a son, Theodore. When William died in 1872 his children sent away to Scotland for red Scotch granite for his monument, which still stands in Wallingford’s Center Street Cemetery.

Theodore became one of the foremost leaders of the engineering profession in Connecticut. He married and had a son, William, who later became Superintendent of Wallingford Water Works. After William married Helen, they had a son, William, my father. Except for when he lived in Washington, D.C. as a Navy officer during WWII, he lived his entire life in Wallingford, I was raised in Wallingford, too, living on N. Main St. until I went to college. 

I have other strong ties to Connecticut, too. I’m a descendent through marriage of Samuel Andrews, one of the founders of Wallingford in 1670, and of Lyman Hall, who was born in Wallingford in 1724 and later signed the Declaration of Independence. 

So, with all this, I figure I owe my “entire existence” to Connecticut and it is as much my “home” as Oregon is Kristof’s.

One more thing.

On. January 14, Kristof’s lawyers filed their first brief to the Oregon Supreme Court. Stretching their argument about as far as possible, the brief argued that denying Kristof, who has lived in lots of places, a spot on the ballot would disenfranchise other Oregonians who have lived in lots of places.

“There are many peripatetic Oregonians who, for various reasons, live in more than one place and may prefer candidates who understand the experience of living in multiple places or changing residences often,” the brief says. “Such Oregonians come from all walks of life: houseless and housing-insecure persons; university students; seasonal migrant workers; servicemembers; snowbirds; the list goes on. These groups are disserved by the Secretary’s interpretation, contravening the spirit of free and equal elections.”

I haven’t yet set up a website for my gubernatorial race, but I plan to let all my celebrity, journalism and Washington, D.C. friends know that they should start setting aside some big bucks to contribute to my campaign. I may not be able get money from Angelina Jolie, who has given to Kristof, but Kim Novak stayed at a house next to mine in Wallingford when she was performing at a local musical theater when I was a kid and I met the actress Tuesday Weld once in California. Maybe I could hit them up for some cash.

Are you with me?

Nicholas Kristof’s Agenda for Oregon: More Magical Thinking

The cat’s out of the bag. 

Gubernatorial hopeful Nicholas Kristof is just another classic tax-and-spend liberal promising more free stuff.  Secretary of State Shemia Fagan may have determined that Kristof doesn’t meet Oregon’s residency requirement to qualify to run for governor, but he has made it clear he doesn’t plan to drop out.

His agenda for Oregon reminds me of an observation by American journalist and cultural critic H.L. Mencken that the principal device of many seeking to get and hold office in government “… is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them.”

In a January 3, 2022, newsletter, Kristof lamented that Americans aren’t guaranteed health insurance, dental care, Internet access, shelter, child-care, jobs, free pre-K and so much more. “Some of (these) services would be difficult or expensive to provide, but the same was true of universal postal service and electrical power,” he asserted.

Is there anything on that list you haven’t heard people such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal advocate? 

Is there anything on that list Tina Kotek, another gubernatorial hopeful and a key member of the Democratic party’s left wing, wouldn’t support?

The fact is Kristof’s agenda is a list of proposed entitlements for Oregonians that would be almost guaranteed to become more costly over time and, like opiates, become addictive.  

Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, a book written by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, has been widely praised for its empathetic portrayal of struggling Americans. I’ve read the book. What has been less noted is how the book excuses individuals from responsibility for life’s travails and makes them victims of circumstance. 

Even the Goodreads summary of the book sees things this way, attributing personal failures to public policy, not personal choices: “Taken together, these accounts provide a picture of working-class families needlessly but profoundly damaged as a result of decades of policy mistakes.”

As one reviewer put it, “Where this book struggles is the complete removal of personal responsibility for any of life’s difficulties, instead completely shifting this to the failings of Government and Society in general. I do think this can play part of a role in the situations people find themselves in, but personal drive and responsibility has to be a factor, or even a government program cannot succeed.” 

Another reviewer expressed a similar concern: “My opinion is that Kristof focuses more on the lack of safety nets that let his friends down instead of the real culprits: Parenting and personal responsibility. The friends and families I knew did not shoot guns at their spouses, engage in criminal activity as children, or begin using drugs at a young age. These are behavioral patterns that are passed down from parent to child, not something that befalls them only as a result of bad luck. To give this perspective so little attention in his book is shortsighted.”

As a conservative, I find Kristof’s approach to social issues troubling and worry it would guide his approaches to governing.

I also worry that, in any case, he’s simply not prepared to lead Oregon, increasing the likelihood he would be an incompetent governor and make things worse.

In a time when for some people the words “political experience” are a slur, Kristof is trying to get around his inexperience by likening himself to innovative and widely admired former Oregon governor Tom McCall, who served during 1967-75. 

“I bring the same experience that Tom McCall brought when he was elected,” Kristof told Willamette Week. “McCall, of course, was a journalist who had never been in the Legislature. And what he brought was a skill set that I think is essential for a successful governor. It’s articulating a vision for the state to rally people around that agenda and then using the convening power of the office to help achieve it.”

Chuck Sheketoff, former director of the left-leaning Oregon Center for Public Policy, has bought into Kristof’s argument. “In the current political environment, it’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t have baggage and history,” Sheketoff said in November 2021.

Only somebody who knows their candidate lacks qualifications for the job they’re seeking would say this.

Oregon’s New Ethnic Studies Standards: Identity Politics Run Amok

The Oregon Ethnic Studies Bill signed into law
Gov. Kate Brown signs ethnic studies bill

Say it ain’t so, Colt.

Colt Gill, appointed by Governor Brown as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, serves as Director of the Oregon Department of Education.

Oregon HB 2845, signed into law by Governor Kate Brown in June 2017, called for an advisory group to create recommendations for ethnic studies standards. A panel of K-12 teachers aligned the recommendations to 2018 social science standards for use in the classroom. After engaging with the public, the Oregon Department of Education made adjustments to the standards. 

The new standards were approved for classroom use in March 2021. School districts will be required to address the ethnic studies standards beginning in the 2026 – 2027 school year.

The theory behind the new standards was that commonly used textbooks and classroom lessons had too narrow a focus of the history, politics, and human geography and that students would benefit from a more complete and inclusive understanding of U.S. and Oregon history. 

So far so good.

Then not so good.

The Kindergarten Standards with Ethnic Studies, yes kindergarten, start off with the following:

Civics and Government

* Engage in respectful dialogue with classmates to define diversity comparing and contrasting visible and invisible similarities and differences. 

 *Develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups including, but not limited to, race, gender, family, ethnicity, culture, religion, and ability. 

History

* Identify examples of unfairness or injustice towards individuals or groups and the “change- makers,” who worked to make the world better. 

Historical Thinking

* Make connections identifying similarities and differences including race, ethnicity, culture, disability, and gender between self and others. 

Social Science Analysis

* Identify possible solutions to injustices 

The questionable guidance continues for later grades. First grade standards, for example, include: 

*Define equity, equality and systems of power” 

*Describe how individual and group characteristics are used to divide, unite and categorize racial, ethnic, and social groups.”

How, in heaven’s name, do 5-year-olds conduct “respectful dialogue” over “visible and invisible similarities and differences.” How and why should they “develop an understanding of one’s own identity groups,” and identify racial, ethnic and cultural differences?

How and why should 1st graders “define…systems of power”?

“In reality, the point of the exercise is to make children hyper-sensitive to racial differences and encourage them to internalise an identity-based consciousness,” Prof. Frank Furedi wrote in Spiked. “The main objective of this curriculum is to introduce youngsters to an identitarian worldview. When small children are exposed to topics suitable for mature adults it is clear that indoctrination rather than education is taking place.” 

Did anybody outside the education establishment read these standards before they were adopted?

Is this really how Oregon parents want their children taught?

Just what baby wants for Christmas- an antiracism picture book

The Best Christmas Books for Toddlers - MBA sahm

Still struggling with finding the right Christmas gift for your toddler? American book publisher Penguin Random House says it has “the perfect gift” for your child, a book it is proudly promoting as part of its new offering, PRH Education Classroom Libraries.”

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs,” says Laura Robb, an author and teacher featured in the program’s promotional materials.

So what does PRH recommend this year?

Once upon a time toddlers drifted off to sleep on a diet of bedtime stories that grew out of folklore, depended on magic or were just enchantingly simple, like Goodnight Moon, Charlotte’s Web or Where the Wild Things Are.

But not anymore. According to PBH, bedtime is now all about getting woke, so it’s promoting “Antiracist Baby Picture Book” by Ibram X. Kendi as part of its new initiative.

Antiracist Baby Picture Book

“With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.,” says PRH. “Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.”

“Critical conversations at the earliest age” about racism? Kendi, author of the bestselling book How to be an Antiracist, wants parents to proselytize about antiracism to babies. That’s right. Babies.

Somebody obviously is buying the book and its message. After all, the book has been  at the top of the New York Times Best Seller List  and was chosen as one of National Public Radio’s 100 favorite books for young readers.

But does that mean you should buy it and read it to your baby?

Is your toddler ready for text such as:

“No one will see racism if we only stay silent. / If we don’t name racism, / it won’t stop being so violent.”

“Knock down the stack of cultural blocks.”  

“Antiracist Baby is bred, not born./Antiracist Baby is raised to make society transform.”

Kendi told the Harvard Gazette parents should start talking to their children about racism as early as preschool and kindergarten. “We know that by 2 years old, children are already consuming racist ideas,” Kendi said. “They’re already discerning whom to play with based on kids’ skin color, and so if we wait till they’re 10 or 15, they may be a lost cause, like some of us adults.”

That’s a pretty bleak point of view.

I much prefer the view of David Schonfeld, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “In these early years, your task is to lay positive groundwork, addressing hate by cultivating its opposite—compassion and tolerance. Luckily, your child has a head start: an innocent indifference to what sets people apart. Kids are very aware of ways we differ, but they aren’t born identifying people with a particular race, gender, or ethnicity,” he says.

Goodreads reviewer echoed Schonfeld’s observation. “… the main problem with Kendi’s) book is that conceptually it does more to divide than unite,” the reviewer commented. “How can anyone set out to write a book for toddlers with the intention of making some of its tiny listeners feel guilt and shame (for nothing they have done wrong), and others feel wronged (for nothing they’ve experienced), before they barely know what a duck or a bike or a picnic are?  The presumption seems to be that every baby is racist until taught not to be, when the opposite is the reality – it is racism and division which are taught – and I worry that is exactly what this book, if unwittingly, achieves.” 

Jay Caspian Kang,  a writer for New York Times Opinion and The New York Times Magazine, conveyed my thinking in a New York Times essay, Do I Have to Read My Child Antiracist Books, Even When They’re Bad?:

“… I admit I find myself a bit repelled by some of the more inelegantly antiracist books, which, at least in coastal cities, have become a main draw in the children’s sections of bookstores. What does it mean, really, to have an antiracist baby? Are these books actually written for kids, who, as far as I can tell, mostly like stories about dinosaurs and cats? Or are they a commodity for white parents who want to prove their progressive bona fides?”

I can’t help but agree. As another reviewer commented, “If you’re looking for a tool to help you indoctrinate your kids into a worldview of racist white-hating woke intersectional progressivism then this is the book for you.”

My advice – spare your toddler the divisive lecturing. Skip Kendi’s book. Go for something like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom or If you give a mouse a cookie.

You’ll both be better off.

It’s not just print newspapers that are dying; their readers are, too.

Cemeteries in Huntersville, NC | Gethsemane Cemetery & Memorial Gardens

Not that long ago, printed newspapers dominated the news landscape and seemed to have a promising future.

In 1940, daily circulation of print newspapers in the U.S. was 41.1 million, according to the Pew Research Center. It was a rare home that didn’t start the day with a newspaper at the breakfast table. At my home in Wallingford, CT, we had two papers delivered daily in the 1940s. In the morning, we got the Meriden Record; In the afternoon we got the New Haven Register. Established about 1812, the Register was one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in the United States.

In the mid-1980’s, weekday print newspaper circulation in the U.S. reached a peak of 63.3 million.  Americans avidly followed stories about events such as the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the introduction of Apple’s original Macintosh personal computer (accompanied by a still heralded Orwellian-themed “1984” TV ad), the agreement between China and the United Kingdom to transfer power in Hong Kong from the UK to China in 1997 and Villanova’s stirring 66-64 upset victory over Georgetown in the NCAA championship. 

Onward and upward, thought media leaders. 

Print newspapers hung in there until the early 2000s. Then the bottom began to fall out. By 2012, daily print circulation was down to 43.4 million. By 2020, Pew Research estimated that print circulation had fallen to just under 24.3 million. What happened? The internet and age.

Print newspaper readers have always tended to be older, more affluent, and more educated. Publishers and advertisers used to like that. The problem is that as those older readers have aged and died, they have not been backfilled by subsequent generations. Instead, younger readers have been gravitating to digital communications channels.

And the shift has accelerated across print platforms where readers have been aging fast.

In a 2012 Pew Research Survey, just 23% of respondents said they read a printed newspaper the previous day. The highest readership, 48% was among those 65 and older. The lowest was those 18-24, at 6%, and 25-29, at 10%.

Pew – where people got news yesterday


The percentages saying they read a printed newspaper yesterday have continued to steadily decline.

A newer May 2021 survey revealed that most consumers never use newspapers as a source of news, and only 25 percent of adults aged 65 or above (those who engage with newspapers the most) reported reading newspapers every day. Meanwhile, even older folks are warming up to online news. Those over 50 are also warming up to the web. In 2016, 32% of the news readers in the 50+ age group expressed a preference for the web. This increased to 43% in a 2019 survey. Newspapers have become even less popular as a news source than radio, and are also among the least used daily news sources among adults aged 18 – 24.

If this young cohort keeps its print avoidance as it ages, print newspapers will eventually lose almost their entire audience.

The biggest threat is probably to local papers with smaller circulation. Papers with a significant number of print subscribers, such as the still profitable Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, are in a better position.

About five years ago, the Journal’s Editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, was asked by a writer for the Nieman Lab whether he saw a day when there would be no print edition at all.

I don’t really foresee the day when there’s no print edition,” Baker said. ” I mean, who knows — we live in a rapidly changing world. Who can really say anything with conviction about what will be 10, 15, 20 years hence? But as things stand, we have a million print subscribers who really value the print edition of the paper. They really want it. They’re prepared to pay a significant amount of money for what they pay for a print newspaper. There continues to be strong demand for the print product, and we will continue to need to meet that demand. I don’t foresee any other changes in the foreseeable future.”

Notwithstanding this rosy prediction, in Sept. 2017 the paper announced it would stop publishing its European and Asian editions. Falling overseas sales and plunging print advertising revenue in recent years drove the decision, according to the Journal. In Oct. 2020, it took another step away from print, cutting print editions of its fashion and luxury lifestyle insert WSJ. Magazine from a dozen to eight.

Those are the drip drip signs of changing attitudes at the Journal about the viability of print.

Meanwhile, most of the paper’s subscription growth is on the digital side. In 2017, of the paper’s 2.1 million subscribers, 1.08 million were digital. Daily print readership now stands at about 734 thousand copies, while digital subscribers total about 2.7 million.

It’s a similar story at The New York Times. In 2017, the paper had 540,000 daily print and 2.2 million digital subscribers. Daily print readership now stands at about 795,000 copies, while digital subscribers total about 5.7 million.

A friend of mine told me he used to subscribe to the daily print version of the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, even after he moved away from Columbus, until he realized he was spending $1000 a year for the subscription. A 12-month digital subscription today is just $119.88.

In all three cases, it costs a lot less to be a digital subscriber, so you have to really love print to go that way. Fewer and fewer people do.

An added note: Covid-19 isn’t helping either. Covid-19’s devastation has hit the elderly the hardest. Of the more then 800,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19, 75% have been 65 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s the newspaper audience.

Build Back Better’s Subsidy of Local Newspapers: a big Mistake

Print Your Custom Newspaper | PRINTNEWSPAPER

Once upon a time, printed newspapers serving local audiences were in high demand.

But over 2200 newspapers in the United States have closed in the past 15 years and the carnage continues. 

Circulation has declined drastically. Pay has been cut. Advertising revenue has plunged. Newsroom employment has plummeted. The vast majority of remaining print newspapers have a circulation of less than 15,000, according to a review by the University of North Carolina’s journalism school.

It’s a grim picture, made worse by the fact that, as Harvard’s Shorenstein Center has pointed out, “Printed newspapers are a manufacturing business. For some, the non-newsgathering cost structure can be the majority of total operating expense. This means that in a world of declining demand for print editions of local newspapers, legacy costs become an increasing share of declining revenue. Much of the underlying reality of the current market failure for local news coverage can be traced to this simple fact.”

But the newspaper industry and some members of Congress think they have found a solution — a federal taxpayer bailout.

This is the wrong solution. And, frankly, it’s embarrassing.

America’s journalism industry, which until now has prided itself on its independence, got a tax break in the Build Back Better bill passed by the House on Nov. 19.

The bill would provide a payroll tax credit for companies that employ eligible local journalists. The measure would allow newspapers, digital news outlets, and radio and television stations to claim a tax credit of $25,000 the first year and $15,000 the next four years for each of up to 1,500 journalists. 

The theory is this would incentivize some publishers to hire or retain local reporters. The Democrats project the cost of putting journalism outlets on the public dole will be $1.7 billion over the next five years, with an estimated $38 million of that injected into approximately 113 newsrooms in Oregon.

Supporters say there will be guardrails to prevent the tax breaks from going to partisan or fake-news sites. Good luck.  The battles over eligibility will be never-ending.

I’m a former newspaper reporter and the struggles of local print news in our Internet-juiced landscape are undeniable, but why print journalism enterprises, or other journalism forms, deserve taxpayer bailouts like this is beyond me. And, unfortunately, you are not likely to read about criticisms of the bailout in your local paper. No surprise there.

Some tax credit supporters argue that government support for media goes back a long way, that the two have always been joined at the hip, so this new idea just continues long-established practices. The latest help is the pandemic-related small business loan program, for example, provided millions to news organizations.

Fundamentally, this argument is that print media already get some subsidies so they should get more. A dubious assertion that too many are willingly embracing.

Media figures also argue that the Build Back Better subsidies will only be temporary anyway. But let’s be honest. When was the last time you saw a government subsidy discontinued?[1]

It’s a given that when the subsidy ends in five years, newspaper publishers and others raking in the subsidies will be back in Congress hat in hand seeking an extension. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the subsidies continue for ten years, the cost will be $3 billion, far from small change. 

It’s also defies logic that taxpayers should subsidize already well-off newspapers. 

One of the vocal tax-break supporters, for example, is The Washington Post, owned by tech billionaire Jeff Bezos since 2013. According to Americans for Tax Reform,  if the tax break becomes law, Gannett, one of the nation’s largest remaining newspaper chains, could gain as much as $127.5 million in tax benefits over five years.

And why should the government give breaks to papers owned by super-rich hedge funds? 

Hedge fund Alden Global Capital, for example, is one of the country’s largest newspaper owners. It has been buying up newspapers, imposing draconian cost cuts, and implementing widespread layoffs. Its current target is the local newspaper chain Lee Enterprises, whose Oregon titles include the Albany Democrat-Herald, the Corvallis Gazette-Times and the Lebanon Express. 

Local print newspapers have been a key element of our civic life for generations, but Build Back Better’s tax breaks are not the solution to the challenges they face. And despite the special show of neediness among many newspaper people these days, we won’t be doing them a favor if we succumb to their pleading.

Maybe a little creative destruction is in order, instead.

—————–

[1] The situation with the federal child tax credit (CTC) is a classic example of the never-ending subsidy.  The CTC is not new, but it was expanded in the March 2001 American Rescue Plan (ARP). Before the ARP, parents were eligible to receive up to $2,000 in tax credits every year for each child under 17 they claim as a dependent. The benefit began to phase out at $200,000 of annual income for single filers and $400,000 for married couples filing jointly. Families had to earn just $2,500 a year to qualify. Parents claiming the credit would receive it as one single refund at tax time, and the credit was partially refundable, meaning families with a tax burden smaller than the size of their credit could still receive up to $1,400 per child.

The ARP increased the program’s benefits, raising the maximum credit to $3,000 for every child aged six to 17, and $3,600 for children under 6. The new credit was fully refundable. In 2021, half was paid out in monthly installments, with the rest to be meted out in families’ annual tax return. 

The ARP expanded the CTC only through 2021. Democrats figured it would prove to be so popular they could extend it indefinitely. So far, they haven’t been able to secure enough votes to do so, but efforts to do so were still underway at the end of 2001. 

The House’s  “Build Back Better” plan: A Costly Collection of Misfires

Build Back Better Is Worse - YouTube

Democrats say Americans love their $2.2 trillion Build Back Better bill passed by the House on Nov. 19. That must be because they don’t know what’s in it.

While the media has largely concentrated on overarching themes of the legislation, gone largely unnoticed are all sorts of provisions most folks would probably find unpalatable if not downright unseemly.

Take a look at the catalog of misfires:

  • Think the Democrats are all about the little people? The current state and local taxes (SALT) deduction allows taxpayers who itemize their deductions to reduce their federal taxable income by the amount of state and local taxes they paid that year, up to $10,000. The House bill would raise the cap to $80,000 through 2030, mostly benefiting the wealthy from high-tax states such as California, New Jersey and New York. Even liberal Jason Furman, a Harvard economist who served as chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, has said the provision’s benefit to “the super-rich” is “obscene.” 
  • Just 6.3% of private sector workers in the U.S. were union members in 2020. The House bill adds a $4500 credit exclusively for Electric Vehicles (EVs) built in the United States with unionized labor. This heavily favors the Big Three American auto manufacturers, all of which operate unionized factories in the U.S. Excluded from the credit: Tesla, Rivian, and every foreign automaker that operates a U.S. assembly plant, none of which are unionized. Vehicles such as the Ford Mustang Mach-E full-electric sport utility vehicle, which is built in Mexico, wouldn’t meet the domestic production requirement either. Canada, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Mexico, France, South Korea, Italy, and other countries recently sent a letter to U.S. lawmakers saying the tax credit proposal would also violate international trade rules. In a separate letter, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng told U.S. lawmakers and the Biden administration that the credits, if approved, “would have a major adverse impact on the future of EV and automotive production in Canada.” Way to go Democrats. Piss off a lot of automakers and allies to placate the UAW.
  • “We’re for working parents,” the Democrats crow. The House bill would guarantee that families making up to 250 percent of a state’s median income would not have to pay more than 7 percent of their annual income on childcare. Sounds good, but it will inevitably federalize child care, favor big corporate providers, raise childcare costs overall and increase the burden on families making more than the cap. 
  • In another sop to unions, the House bill would allow union members to deduct up to $250 of dues from their tax bills, allowing them to exclude the cost of dues from their gross income. The Joint Committee on Taxation says this would cost taxpayers $1.8 billion. A lot of union dues money goes into supporting political campaigns and lobbying. OpenSecrets, a non-partisan analyst of political money, says Democrats got 90% of union donations in 2020 federal races. 
  • Americana’s journalism industry, which prides itself on its independence, got a piece of the Build Back Better pie in the House bill, too. The House bill would provide a payroll tax credit for companies that employ eligible local journalists. The measure would allow newspapers, digital news outlets, and radio and television stations to claim a tax credit of $25,000 the first year and $15,000 the next four years for each of up to 1,500 journalists. The theory is this would incentivize some publishers to hire or retain local reporters. The projected cost of putting journalism outlets on the public dole – $1.7 billion. I’m a former newspaper reporter and the struggles of local news are undeniable, but this is embarrassing. Why large and small journalism enterprises deserve taxpayer bailouts like this is beyond me. Supporters say there will be guardrails to prevent the tax breaks from going to partisan or fake-news sites. Good luck.  

Who knows what other godawful provisions lurk in the 2000+ page Build Back Better bill. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of another contentious legislative process, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it …”

The Newberg School Board’s Messaging Ban: A Different Perspective

Gay Straight Alliance becomes a reality – The Prowler

OK. I’m going to be the odd man out.

Do the people insisting on the display of Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride messages in Newberg, Oregon schools honestly believe those are non-political non-controversial messages? 

Does the teachers’ union, the Newberg Education Association, really believe that the display of such messages on school campuses is essential “to create safe learning environments for our students”?

Do Newberg students all agree that the Newberg School Board, in banning the display of images “relating to a political, quasi-political, or controversial topic,” is demonstrating that is has no empathy?

Or are the parents, students and union representatives simply embracing progressive messaging in Newberg schools and cloaking their advocacy in claims of free speech rights, while the Board is trying to keep their schools neutral in today’s toxic political environment?

I ask these questions because I doubt the critics of the ban would be so outspoken if the debate was over the display of conservative-leaning messages.

Would they support a poster in the Newberg High School lobby with National Right-to-Life’s message, “Promote respect for the worth and dignity of every individual human being, born or unborn”?

aohadmin, Author at AOH Tír na Nóg Division 1, Lehigh County

How about a “thin blue line” flag endorsed by the Blue Lives Matter movement hanging prominently in the school gym?

Commentary: Blue Lives Matter Bills Send Wrong Message | Fortune

Would they support a massive pro-death penalty banner such as “Keep capital punishment safe and legal” in every classroom?

What's next for the death penalty?

Citing a lawsuit filed by the Newberg Education Association calling for the Yamhill County circuit court to block the Newberg School District from enforcing its new policy, union president Jennifer Schneider said the lawsuit “… is just one more step to guarantee that the personal politics and prejudices of the new School Board majority aren’t able to enter our classrooms…” 

How about preventing the personal politics and prejudices of the ban’s critics from entering Newberg’s classrooms?

Making the whole controversy worse, Oregon Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner (D- Lake Oswego) is using it as an excuse to stir the pot by introducing two bills for the 2022 legislative session:  One would require all school boards to receive a biannual audit and implement strategies around equity training. The other bill would prohibit school boards from terminating superintendents who implement state-mandated best practices that relate to diversity, inclusion and public health practices.

Just what we need, more political grandstanding and micromanagement of Oregon’s public schools. 

Biden’s Federalization of Child Care Will Be Costly

“You can’t handle the truth!” Colonel Nathan R. Jessup roared in A Few Good Men.

President Biden and the Democrats in Congress apparently think the same way in explaining the costs of their Build Back Better budget proposals. Supposedly, the cost of the House Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill is $1.75 Trillion.

But this is a fiction based on smoke and mirrors.

On Thursday, the Penn Wharton Budget Model reported that if all the provisions of the bill (except green energy tax cuts) are made permanent, new spending would increase by $3.98 trillion, more than double what President Biden’s White House said.

On Friday, Nov. 5, the House passed a $1 Trillion infrastructure bill, but put the social policy bill on hold because a half-dozen Democrats withheld their votes until a nonpartisan analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could tally its price tag, which could be delayed until at least mid-November. In other words, even the Democrats don’t know what their social policy bill would cost.social policy

One area that stands out in terms of unknown real costs is projected spending on child care. 

Child Care Services Association — Ensuring affordable, asccessible,  high-quality child care

On Friday, Nov. 5, the House passed a $1 Trillion infrastructure bill, but put the social policy bill on hold because a half-dozen Democrats withheld their votes until a nonpartisan analysis could tally its price tag, which could be delayed until at least mid-November. In other words, even the Democrats don’t know what their social policy bill would cost.

The childcare part of the package attempts to spur more workers to join the childcare workforce and raise providers’ wages by spending around $100 billion over the first three years.

The bill would guarantee that families making up to 250 percent of a state’s median income would not have to pay more than 7 percent of their annual income on child care.

“How can we compete in the world if millions of American parents, especially moms, can’t be part of the workforce because they can’t afford the cost of childcare or eldercare,” Biden said in October. 

All well and good, but what’s going to be the actual cost to the federal government if the Democrats’ bill passes and gets signed by the President? The House will be out on recess next week, returning the week of Nov. 13. If there is a CBO score by then, it’s possible that the House could move immediately to a final vote on the bill.

First of all, the program would supposedly come to an end in six years, but that’s just part of the Democrats’ budget trickery. The assumption that spending on the child care program will cease in six years reduces its overall cost during the 10-year budget window that Congress uses to determine whether a bill will add to the federal deficit. But Democrats are counting on parents becoming so fond of the government largesse that Congress will extend the program.

President Biden has said the child care subsidies would save the average family $14,800 per year on child care expenses. In other words, the federal government would pick up $14,800 in childcare costs now paid by the average American family. 

,Using Oregon as a test case, median family income in 2020 was $76,554. On that basis, no Oregon family making less than $191,385 would pay more than 7% of their income on child care. Families earning more than $191,385 would, however, likely pay more once all the government’s mandates kicked in. Higher wages for childcare workers, for example, would likely be passed on to parents by child care providers.

Under the House bill, all the teachers and staff participating in the child care workforce, would have to be paid at least $15 an hour. Many child care workers are now so low paid that more than 15 percent are below the poverty line in 41 states, according to a Sept. 2021 report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Similarly, nearly half of child care workers use public assistance, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

According to ZipRecruiter, as of Oct 30, 2021, the average annual pay for a child care worker in Oregon was $18,969 a year or approximately $9.12 an hour. 

Under the Democrats’ bill, child care staff with the qualifications of kindergarten teachers would have to be compensated as such, according to The White House. Kindergarten teachers Oregon must have finished a degree program that includes a teacher education component. Teaching kindergarten also requires passing several exams before earning a license. According to ZipRecruiter, as of Oct 30, 2021, the average annual pay for a kindergarten teacher in Oregon was $33,785 a year or $16.24 an hour.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 494,360 child care workers in the United States. Oregon has about 13,000 of those. 

According to the White House, child care providers will also “receive funding to cover the true cost of quality early childhood care and education–including a developmentally appropriate curriculum, small class sizes, and culturally and linguistically responsive environments that are inclusive of children with disabilities.”

Under the House bill, the federal government would also pay for child care workers to receive job-embedded coaching and professional development to help child care workers grow their skills during their careers.

The federal government would have to pony up a lot of new money to pay for all this. Not only that, but the states would have to step up, too. States would not be required to match any funds for the first three years, giving them time to ramp up their programs while funded entirely by the federal government. After three years, states would have to provide a 10% match to the federal funds. Where’s that money going to come from?

In addition, President Biden has said he would “ensure families have access to the quality care their children need by working in partnership with states to ensure providers meet rigorous quality standards. These standards will include a developmentally appropriate curriculum, small class sizes, and support positive interactions between educators and children that promote children’s socio-emotional development.”

To say that the Democrats want to federalize child care would be an understatement.

Although the goal of affordable child care seems worthwhile, I can’t help but think this particular proposal is going to have major unintended consequences if it becomes law.

For example, it is likely the proposal will lead to higher childcare costs overall, particularly for those not under the subsidy umbrella. As the Acton Institute has written, “There is little reason to expect that large increases in government subsidies toward childcare would lead to declining overall costs. All prices are relative prices. Increasing the demand for childcare services through subsidies while directing that demand to more formal, regulated, and already stressed institutions is a recipe for…cost explosions.”

Jonathan Bydlak of the R Street Institute makes the same point. “The idea of using subsidies to essentially engineer some sort of outcome is not exactly a great idea,” he says. “Any time you end up subsidizing something that represents a market manipulation. There’s always a potential, as we’ve seen in areas like education, for example, where… education costs are almost certainly higher as a result of the ways in which we subsidize that system.”

Many have argued that years of government subsidies for college have raised the spending power of the average person for higher education, but not necessarily to their benefit. Colleges and universities, those people say, have taken note of families’ increased spending power and raised their tuitions accordingly, resulting in the sky-high tuition rates that exist today.

At one point recently, President Biden said his Build Back Better plan would cost nothing because rich people and corporations would pay the bill. “The fact of the matter is, my Build Back Better Agenda costs $0,” Biden said.

If you believed that, or if you think the Democrats’ proposed child care program is only going to cost $100 billion over its first three years, you’re smoking some pretty potent weed.