Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Healthcare-Less Talk and More Action by Republicans!

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Several Republican governors made a splash of headlines in recent weeks by proposing alternatives to Obamacare.  Many of their ideas are the part of the same list the GOP has been shopping around for years, some of it pieced together from a litany of Republican proposals.  These Republican governors, including Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin are being blistered by a number of state and national columnists for not putting forth anything new or original.

But just because the proposals did not originate from the governors themselves is no cause to at least not give a good look at their suggestions.  I’m not concerned that these GOP ideas are unoriginal.  If they are to be criticized for anything, it should be for their lack of follow through.
Recent Republican health reform lists include pooling for small businesses, pay for performance, health savings accounts, and change in lifestyles to reduce the likelihood of chronic disease, insurance reform, and medical lawsuit reform. Their plans are suggesting that nurse practitioners and other medical professionals be given more leeway it what they can do.
Their plans endorse high-risk pools for those who are hard to insure, something, by the way, that some obscure Louisiana Insurance Commissioner put into place back in the 1990’s.  (I think his name was Jim Brown.)   The to do list also includes offering financial incentives for more healthy behavior and a crack down on what these Governors describe as “rampant fraud” in government healthcare programs.
Jindal’s plan suggests other needed changes including:  post treatments and procedures to the internet, portable electronic health care records, more coverage for pre-existing conditions, better coordination in care for chronic conditions, and other ideas that he thinks have merit and will help in controlling escalating costs. 

But here is Jindal’s Achilles heel. He’s good at proposing, but weak at implementing.   He needs to do more than just talk the talk.  Just about every proposal on the Governor’s list could, and in most cases should be put in place on the state level.  In fact, by enacting a comprehensive “Louisiana Plan,” Jindal would have a platform to use in touring the country and in saying, Hey, look at all we’ve done Louisiana.

He could begin immediately with lifestyle changes by implementing a wellness program for the 257, 000 state employees and their families who get their health insurance though the state group benefits program. Louisiana has the highest rate of obesity in the nation, and obese people spend 42 percent more than people of normal weight on medical costs.  This amounts to $1500 more a year.  A major wellness effort among public employees could result in huge savings for Louisiana.

The Louisiana legislature is in session as we speak. If these ideas are as good as Jindal says they are, he should go ahead and put them in place in his home state. He then could take his program nationwide as an alternative to Obamacare.

Presently, Jindal is just adding more rhetoric to the mix.  However, now, he has the unique opening to move toward implementing rather than just offering proposals. He should practice what he preaches and seize the moment.  While the president is bogged down in his defense of Obamacare, Jindal has a window of opportunity to put his plan into operation in his home state.

So here’s my suggestion to the Louisiana Governor and other Republican governors that are offering Obamacare alternatives.  I hear Jindal work’s out just about every day at the state police-training academy in Baton Rouge. Throw out your old tennis shoes Governor, buy yourself a new pair of Nikes, and when it comes to healthcare changes, “Just Do It!”


I might be in favor of national healthcare if it required all members of congress to get their heads examined.

Ann Coulter

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


For the fourth year in a row, Louisiana is number one.  That’s right!  Once again, the Bayou State has been named as the home of the worst drivers in America.

One of the major causes of such ranking is Louisiana’s tolerance for drunk drivers. Louisiana has always been a “free and easy” state when it comes to drinking and driving.  Visitors are dumbfounded when they see drive through Daiquiri shops across the state. And the results shouldn’t be surprising.  Fifty-three per cent of all serious injuries and highway deaths involve a drunk driver.  So why hasn’t there been more outrage and should there tougher laws on the books?
Actually, Louisiana has some of the toughest DWI laws in the country.  For a third offence DWI there is no discretion for judges.  An offender with three convictions faces a mandatory sentence of two years in jail. And get this – the party convicted is supposed to have their car seized and sold out from under them.  Have a mortgage?  Tough luck.  Should have thought about that before you went drinking and got behind the wheel. 
In 1996, as insurance commissioner, I wrote the current law. But have you ever known of a third offender DWI having his or her car taken off the road and sold -- or the offender actually serving two years jail time with no suspended sentence?  These are rare occurrences, unless someone else is killed in a collision with the drunk driver.
The problem is one of enforcement.  Many judges and prosecutors ignore the law.  Often the DWI charge is reduced to careless and reckless driving.  And compounding this problem is that computer information systems in one parish are unable to communicate with systems in another parish, so a prosecutor is not aware of previous convictions. 
A driver in the Baton Rouge area was recently charged with his 7th DWI.  That’s seven DWI charges.  Where were the red flags at three, or four or five or six?  How could a guy like this slip through the cracks?
Many states have enacted new laws that cut little slack for drunk drivers. In Virginia, accused drunk drivers who fail breath tests when stopped by police will have their licenses suspended immediately, even before they are tried in court.  New Mexico requires an “ignition interlock” for every convicted drunk driver, even on the first offense.  No exceptions.
In New York, tough new steps have been taken to curb a major drunk driving problem.  Drivers there who have been convicted of being drunk while carrying passengers 15 years or younger face up to four years in prison, even when there is no wreck involved.  And how’s this for a tough sanction:  A Long Island, New York jury recently convicted a drunk driver of murder for killing two people in a head-on collision. The district attorney who brought the charges had been elected on a “take no prisoners” approach to drunk drivers.
Was this too tough a penalty? Not according to the mother of one of the female victims.  She used no euphemisms in describing the damage done.  “As I crawled out of the car, the only thing that was left of Kate was her head. This was murder and no different from carrying a loaded gun around, pointing it at people and having a few shots go off killing them.”  The prosecutor made no bones about how she will act in dealing with drunk driving deaths.  ”We hope that his verdict sends a message that if you drink and drive and kill somebody, you will be prosecuted for murder.”
For far too long, having a few drinks then driving home has been no big deal in Louisiana.  To many drivers, it is still a normal way of life.  Hopefully, much stiffer sentences handed down by tough Louisiana judges, who will enforce the strong laws already on the books, will go a long way in reducing too many pointless and unwarranted deaths. 
Yeah, I know some people are against drunk driving.  But you know, sometimes you’ve got no choice; those kids gotta get to school.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Should College Athletes Be Paid?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Millions of rabid college basketball fans have been glued to their TVs over the past month as March Madness reaches its crescendo. And the big bucks have been rolling in.  With coaches getting bigger salaries, and colleges splitting huge TV and admission revenue -- there are lots of winners. But one group is being exploited and shortchanged -- the players themselves.
There’s certainly no shortage of income.  This year in the NCAA tourney, television income is estimated to approach $2 billion with an additional $200 million from ticket sales and sponsorships. A thirty second spot for Monday night’s championship game will cost nearly $2 million. And college football is awash with a fabulously increasing income, as well.
The average compensation for these NCAA tourney coaches is at least twice that of the typical university president.  Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski will pocket some $7.5 million this year. In 40 states, the highest paid public employee is the football or basketball coach, which shows a perverted sense of priorities at these institutions of higher learning.  
Fans pay through the nose to attend major college athletic events.  As an LSU football season ticket holder, I personally pay $1025 just for the right to buy one seat.  The seat ticket itself is $64 per game.  So there are big bucks coming into major college programs all over the country.
All this income comes from the hard-working, disciplined players on the fields and courts. Yet these college athletes are paid only the basics -- room and board, tuition, books. No extras. So we have college athletic programs raking in millions on the backs of talented athletes, with no sharing of the revenue with those responsible for generating it.  Such a system is ill defined at best, and hypocritical at worst.  The universities are reaping the value produced by their recruits, while the players are given only enough for subsistence.
When I attended the University of North Carolina on an athletic scholarship, a little more than 50 years ago, I was given a housing and food allowance, as well as “laundry money” that allowed for weekend dates, gas, and a few frills above the basic scholarship. What I received then was equivalent to $300 in pocket money if the same were allowed today.  But it’s not.  The NCAA tightened the rules, and college athletes get less today than athletes like myself received a half century ago.
Supporters of the present system will argue that there’s the opportunity for these athletes to move on to the pros and make big financial returns.  But we all know that very few make it to that level.  Further, many of them may not even end up with the basic skills necessary to succeed in other occupations, since only a minority of student-athletes in major sports even graduate. 
The system in place now exploits our college athletes, and this exploitation is administered by their adult mentors.  What a deal. Your hard work and self discipline for the entertainment of others in exchange for a pittance that barley covers your basic expenses.  A little monthly expense money is not going to corrupt the system. $300 a month for athletes on a full athletic scholarship seems reasonable.  March Madness, as always, is a financial bonanza.  But not for the kids that make it happen.  They deserve a better shake and a little larger piece of this huge financial pie.
The coaches own the athletes’ feet, the colleges own the athletes’ bodies, and the supervisors retain the large rewards. That reflects a neo-plantation mentality on the campuses that is not appropriate at this time of high dollars.”
Walter Byers, the former executive director of the NCAA.
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at