Sutherland: Money For Nothing & Checks For Free!

Watson's Girl & Zeiman(1)

Former KC Star publisher Mark Zieman – seen here with the Watson’s Girl – is taking down $1.4 million a year as a McClatchy VP

With apologies to British rockers Dire Straits, the creators of the 1985 hit with the lyrics ever so slightly modified, the above-referenced line could be the slogan of the Kansas City Star’s own Barbara Shelly as she pushes for Medicaid expansion as a necessary part of Obamacare….

I was intrigued earlier this year when I saw on The Star’s “Faith Calendar” for Sunday, March 10th, that “Barb Shelly” (no introduction necessary) would be speaking that day at the Unitarian Universalist “Church” (sic).

It turns out that “Barb’s” remarks were the worship service and the subject of her remarks was “Struggling for The Affordable Care Act.” (Don’t you just hate how the Religious Right mixes politics and religion?)  Who was struggling only became clear when I got there.  As our gal Barb put it, she was the one struggling to get Obamacare implemented, as was her paper, by writing and publishing “countless unsigned editorials” on the need to expand Medicaid in Kansas and Missouri as part of Obamacare.

Many smarter and better informed people than I am could make compelling arguments pro and con on the issue.  I also realize that the situation is different in Missouri and Kansas, although many of the same questions exist in both.  In other words, I think I can say this is a complex mix of policy, tax, and medical considerations with no easy answers.


Baqrb Shelly

Not for Barb Shelly.

Why wouldn’t Kansas and Missouri embrace the expansion of Medicaid?  After all, the hundreds of billions of dollars promised the states by the federal government ($750 million for Kansas) is “FREE MONEY.”  Those were her words!

Never mind the promise to pay the states’ share of the costs of expanding the program is only that, a promise.  Never mind that the Feds’ commitment to cover the state’s share of increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers runs out after three years.  Never mind that the states have been handed a fiscal time bomb of unknown dimensions.  Somehow money from the federal government is like manna from Heaven; it comes at no cost, with no strings attached according to our moral and intellectual betters down on Grand.

imagesShelly also seems unbothered by the fact that the other two-thirds of the federal safety net (Medicare and Social Security) are already actuarially insolvent.  Why not go for broke?  Literally!  Go big or go home.  No one questions the need to strengthen the safety net in hard times but do we really want to permanently increase the share of the general population totally dependent on Medicaid from 23% to 30%?

At one time families with incomes of up to $56,000 per annum qualified for Medicaid assistance in Missouri.  Since the median family income is now $52,000 nationally this would mean that something like 60% of the population would qualify for assistance in Missouri if that cut-off still applied.  (Governor Matt Blunt tightened eligibility and thus prevented the rest of the state budget from being swallowed by Medicaid spending only to be rewarded by thousands of cute bumper stickers reading, “No More Blunt Trauma!”  He was out after one term.)

All this is “irrelevant, immaterial, scurrilous, and redundant” (as we say in the law), according to Barb and the Star Editorial Board.  Remember, she said, the alternative is “health insurance company executives with seven-figure salaries making decisions on your health care.”

This was too good to be true, so during the Q & A I asked her how many of the McClatchy Company’s executives made seven figure salaries.  Barb feigned amnesia on this particular point so I gave her the following fun facts on her publishers’ compensation:  Five of The McClatchy Company execs made compensation worth over a million dollars a year, one over four million.


Gary Pruitt (Chairman)              $4,491,610

Patrick Talamantes (CEO)              $1,655,804

Elaine Lintecum (VP/CFO)              $800,000

Mark Zieman (VP)                     $1,473,218

Robert J. Weil (VP)                     $1,402,327

Karole Morgan (Secy.)              $1,231,234

do-as-we-say-not-as-we-doWhat is an “obscene” salary for an insurance company exec is apparently only a living wage when you work at a newspaper publishing company.  I’m glad the Star has taken such a principled stand against income inequality when I see these figures.

My only regret is that such opportunities don’t present themselves every day.  To paraphrase one of my favorite presidents, “Soon you won’t have the Kansas City Star to kick around anymore!”  I for one will be deeply sorry if that ever happens.

Without their ignorance, mendacity, and arrogance what would I write about?
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28 Responses to Sutherland: Money For Nothing & Checks For Free!

  1. the dude says:

    Dwight is right that the FED just loooves to mandate things that they never fund properly or at all (‘memba no child left behind?). And medicare and social security are basically insolvent so how the hell are they going to realistically fund single payer?!?!?

  2. Static says:

    Goddamn, Dwighty, we’re the only country in the free world without some form of universal health care for its citizens. THE ONLY ONE!

    All I hear is a whiny entitled rich guy here. I guess it’s more comforting to assume that anyone who’s having a bad time in life deserved it somehow.

    The first thing you can do is perpetuating the Fox News Talking Point that Social Security and Medicare are insolvent. In fact you seem to buy into everything they’re pushing over there. But here are a few more talking points for you.

    Santa is White
    Jesus is White
    Fox is News

    But, hey, I know you’re big on the constitution. You know, the 1st amendment ( christians/white people can say whatever they want at any time, muslims/black people just shut the hell up) and definitely the 2nd amendment (unrestricted gun rights (again for white people), just like Jesus wanted).

    Also what in the wide world of sports does bringing the salaries of her company’s executives have to do with it? Is there a large company anywhere where that isn’t the case? No! Of course not!

    Barb’s got more brains in her pinky than you do in your entire enfeebeled mind. You folks had a good run, but isn’t time for you to lie down in the street and die?

    • admin says:

      In answer to Static’s question about bringing up the salaries of the newspaper execs Barb works for, I think the obvious point Dwight was trying to make is the same one you’re trying to make.

      That big shot corporate fat cats make a ton of dough.

      Barb invited Dwight’s comparison by initiating the idea and casting aspersions on insurance company executives were paid seven-figure sums.

      I give that point to Dwight. Next?

  3. Marie A. says:

    I suppose your view on food stamps is very similar. Something along the lines of let them eat cake.

    and yes, if this is what you say to yourself to make you feel better so be it. But it can safely be ignored by the rest of us.

    • John Altevogt says:

      So now that you’ve read it and safely dispatched it with your witty response the rest of us can just ignore it. Thanks ever so much.

    • chuck says:

      “Let them eat cake.”

      “While it is commonly attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette, there is no record of this phrase ever having been uttered by her. It appears in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions, his autobiography (whose first six books were written in 1765, when Marie Antoinette was nine years of age, and published in 1782).”

      She didn’t say it.

  4. Marie A. says:

    Google “social security solvent” and get back to me, faggot.

    • John Altevogt says:

      Oh my goodness, I’m thinking your role in the new A & E reality show “Human Garbage of Kansas City” is out the door.

    • the dude says:

      All I can say in response is quote the legend Mr. Ric Flair, “WHOOOOOO!!!!!”

  5. Tigerpiper says:

    First of all, I go to that church. I’m sure you’re trying to insult my church by putting quotes around it, but it just makes you look close-minded and stupid. You don’t understand that Unitarians can have a church? What other religions do you believe go to “church” not church?

    Second, Shelly spoke at the forum. The forum is a venue for discussion of local, national and world topics and is not the service (which happens after the forum.) Traditionally, for example, the mayor gives at state of the city address at the forum. You don’t accuse Sly of leading our services, do you?

  6. John Altevogt says:

    Man, nothing like picking on our local handmaiden to corruption and it’s hypocrisy to bring the nuts out of the woodwork.

    With all the money Zieman’s making I can’t imagine ol’ Three Wheel Lokeman has had a sober day since they’ve hit California. And, I’m betting the family budget needed a little bit of a boost after he got done bailing her out of her last drunken stupor here in KC. I’m told it never even got reported to the state. Kansas City, best judges money can buy. I’ll bet he misses those little perks.

    McClatchy, “Ever licking the ass of power”.

  7. Mysterious J says:

    Happy teabagger friday!

  8. admin says:

    I’m going to let Marie A’s rather puzzling homophobic slur stand as a disappointing example of morphing an otherwise civil discussion and disagreement into an Alec Baldwin Moment.

    Luck be a lady, I guess.

  9. Stomper says:

    Wow, this got rolling pretty quickly here. I read the piece before coming into work and intended to post earlier. My take was that Dwight really had the Star itself more in his crosshairs and Obamacare was 2nd on the hit list. I do, however, want to chime in here and make a few general comments. As one of the few “knee jerk liberals” that post here, I always feel an obligation to spew some of my rhetoric, when those on the other side of the aisle surface. Static and Marie made good points but maybe a bit over the top with some choice of wording. Dwight, I really don’t take any issue with your opinions on the Star. My comments are aimed at healthcare reform in general.

    1. The GDP in the US is around $15+ trillion. We spend about 17% of that on health care. One sixth of our economy is tied up there. That’s $2.5 trillion or so. The rest of the developed countries spend closer to 9% or so of their GDP. What do we get for that. The World Health Organization rates us at #38. Pretty embarrassing for us. If we could roughly match the others in terms of % of GDP spent, that’s a savings of well over $1 trillion. That could go a long way towards solving some other serious issues we face. Where is that $1 trillion going? That’s a rhetorical question. We all know where it is going. Clearly we have a problem with the current system.

    2. If we are going to get political here, the first president to propose governmental involvement in healthcare was Teddy Roosevelt, a republican. In his day, he was considered a “Progressive Republican”. Today a “Progressive Republican” is not quite the perfect example of an oxymoron but clearly they are an endangered species. Those that may still exist are hiding in caves in fear of their next primary election battle.

    3. Nixon also pushed for federal involvement and his model was very similar to the ACA. He advocated for uninsured’s to move over to Medicare with federal subsidies to finance. Obviously other items hit his plate and he had to focus attention elsewhere. If we could eliminate the excessive partisanship that exists today, there is a lot of common ground we could find. I would submit that if the GOP would come up with a serious plan to address this obvious problem, it wouldn’t look so different. I’ve already heard some of the Right say that many parts of the ACA would be a part of their plan. Remove the pre-existing exclusion. Keep kids on their parents policy until they are 26. Well that’s the government telling the private sector how to run their business. Insurance companies would not have done that on their own because it negatively affects their business model. In their defense, it’s not the job of the private sector to fix public problems. It’s their job to answer to their share-holders.

    4. Dwight, I do think you may have given the impression that the feds subsidizing the increased Medicare portion that would now cover those uninsureds is “new money”. It’s the government reaching into our pockets and “redistributing wealth” ( There’s that great phrase again that another commenter called me pedantic on). This is a zero sum game here. The cost to cover these uninsured people now is hidden in our current insurance premiums. Instead of the feds subsidizing Medicare and Medicaid to cover the cost of the uninsureds, those of us with health insurance are paying it now. When uninsured people have issues and go to ERs, the hospital treats them and then just transfers the unpaid cost over to it’s other customers that do pay. That’s you and me. (I’m assuming you have health insurance now)

    5. I would think the basic question we all need to answer is this. ” Is access to healthcare a right or a privilege?” I’ve heard some on the Right say that healthcare is a product just like a big screen TV is. If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t have it. Not the government’s job to take over 1/6th of the economy. I’m one of those people that think healthcare is a right and if the private sector can’t or won’t address problems, it is the job of government to address it. This is a problem of epic proportions that threatens our economy im my opinion. Spending a trillion dollars more each year than we need to just to rank 38th in the world with what we get isn’t cutting it.

    6. In closing, here’s my admission. The roll out of the program/website was moronic. Inexcusable. For the O-Man to say that “If you like your insurance, you can keep it” he was either completely uninformed or misinformed. The law changed what was acceptable in policy standards so there is no way he can tell a private carrier to keep a policy for an insured when it is required to change the policy coverage form. Lots of problems and the law is far from perfect. Clearly the bath water is very, very dirty, but let’s not throw out the baby.

    In closing, Dwight, while we clearly don’t agree on our politics, this was a good piece and I appreciate your presence here at KCC. Your postings always generate a higher level of discourse than is seen elsewhere. Keep up the great work !!

    • chuck says:

      Good info Stomper, but a few filligrees for our Christmas commenting tree.

      The President repeated over 28 times that “If you like your insurance plan, you can keep it.” This is problematic, NOT because of the blowback, but because of percieved intent. With the election close at hand, the president could NEVER say that millions would lose their plans and millions of small business’ would cancel employee insurance. In my opinion, there was intent with full knowledge of the ramifications (Losing the election.) of providing the truth (Extrapolated and noted by those in the administration and those involved with the roll out.), which the President knew, would cost him the election. He has serious Mens Rae exposure with respect to the lies and the results of those lies, that being, his successful ascendancy to a 2nd term.

      While your stats with respect to our world ranking in terms of Health Care are impressive and the oft repeated mantra of 46 million uncovered Americans sounds inhumane, lets look at it closer.

      Around 10 million of the uninsured aren’t even citizens. Another 8 million are aged 18-24, which is the group least prone to medical problems. The average salary of a person in this age group is $31,790, so affording health care would not be a problem. Seventeen million of the uninsured make over $50,000 a year, and within that group, 8 million make over $75,000. These people are usually referred to as the “voluntarily uninsured.” Another large group of these 46 million are uninsured in name only, as they are eligible for government programs that they haven’t signed up for. Estimates on how large this group is vary, the range being from 5.4 million as estimated by the Kaiser Family Foundation to as large as one third of all the uninsured, as estimated by BlueCross BlueShield. The number of people without care because they cannot afford it is around 6 million — still a large number, but a fraction of 46 million, and no reason to restructure the entire health care system

      Infant mortality, the US rates 47th. In Hong Kong and Japan, for instance, babies who die within 24 hours of birth are classified as miscarriages and don’t factor into their infant mortality rate. In the United States, half of all infant mortalities occur within the first 24 hours after birth. Canada, Germany, and Ireland all don’t count premature babies weighing under 500 grams towards their infant mortality rate, instead defining them as “still births.” Australia does the same thing, but at 400 grams. The mortality rate for babies at that weight is 869 per 1,000.

      The examples continue and are legion.

      The Republicans DO and HAVE submitted legislation for Health Care, so while the president says, “If you have ideas, bring them to me.” as if no one is, it is, at best disingenuous.

      Here is the the crux of the matter in my opinon. It won’t work. It really is a transfer of wealth by folks with an agenda which is only partially concerned with actual health care and far more concerned with winning elections and the culture war. When this dumpster fire grows in mass and heat into next year, no one will be exempt from the burns. The first rats off of the ship, will be Democrats.

      • Stomper says:

        Thanks Chuck. When you say in your last paragraph, “it won’t work”, what is it that won’t work?

        One problem I see here is that the labels “democrat” and “republican” seem to have so much baggage and preconceptions attached. Not all democrats are “advocates for socialism” as many republicans paint them. Likewise, not all republicans operate under the mantra ” I got mine, screw you” as many democrats paint them. I do believe that most democrats understand and believe in the concept of “individual responsibility”. I also believe that most republicans understand and believe in the concept of “social responsibility”. There is so much common ground, why not start there?

        Do we at least agree that the current healthcare system is broken? Where do you come down of the issue of healthcare being a right or a privilege?

        I would like to see an outline of this republican health care legislation you refer to. I would have to believe it includes moving the current uninsured group over to Medicare/Medicaid and funded with federal subsidies. Unlike others, I’m not willing to give up on the private sector and exclude them from participating in the solution. If that fails, a single payer system may be the next step, however.

        By the way, did you check out that link I had on Paul Wilson’s recent piece on Hobby Lobby? Don’t have it handy but if you google ” George Lakoff, Redistribution of Wealth” it should be at the top of the list. What are your thoughts on that article? I guess you could also look at Paul’s archives on KCC and scroll down to my last post in response to “Ex Pat”

        I know you have an open mind so I appreciate your perspective.

        • chuck says:

          At this late date, what anyone thinks is irrelevant. Barbaro is outta the barn and running down the track. We have seen this video before and it won’t end well. Who shoots the horse is less important than who pays the bill for hauling it off.

          The implosion of the ACA and concomitant wailing and gnashing of teeth, will afford both Rep and Dems a chance to fix this and fix it right. I actually think they will, after the bloodbath in the 2014 elections.

          Until then, we salt of the earth rubes, will sit in some pretty tony seats drinking mint julips in fat hats watching this poor animal die. No one will remember who won the race.

      • cu_member says:

        Barb Shelly was first in line defending and making excuses for that lie of Obama. She stopped being a journalist a long time ago…….not sure why any liberal would count her among the flock. Her trashing of Snowden this year reeked of “getting the memo to push the administrations spin”.

  10. If ever there was a story just screaming out for coverage, it would be “Where Are They Now: Jennifer the Watson’s Girl.” I miss that broad.

  11. Vincent Vegga says:

    The leftists: “faggot”….”lie down in the street and die” are these the same angry socialists who permed their silver ponytails and polished their crocs to attend the premier of Death of a President, the Bush assisnation film?….wonder why there is partanship?

    Love the comments of the DINO Stomper…I think if the left was as reasonable as is he/she we might actually be able to make some progress…nice post, Stomper.

  12. CM70 says:

    ” two-thirds of the federal safety net (Medicare and Social Security) are already actuarially insolvent.”

    Why won’t this lie go away? When will people stop making stuff up?

    • Dwight Sutherland says:

      A business or an individual is insolvent if they cannot”pay their obligations as they come due”. It does not mean they have no income or net worth,only that they don’t have enough to pay all their bills. I said “actuarially” insolvent because it was based on fewer people paying into Social Security and Medicare relative to those drawing benefits. These figures can be calculated with some degree of accuracy based on census figures. My only point is that before dramatically taking on significant new obligations in the form of an expanded Medicaid program,we need to make sure that we can honor our existing commitments. I don’t think there is any thing particularly harsh or mean-spirited about that proposition.

  13. harley says:

    i’ma liberal…and I see tons of conervaitves without health insurance going to
    the emergency rooms getting free care at my the taxpayers expense.
    time to make people responsible for their own affiars.
    aren’t I right you right wingers who cry for personal respoonsbility all the time.

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