Weekend Digest: The Politics Of Private Prisons, Civil Unions And A Middle-class Tax Hike

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 86 views 

Editor's Note: Talk Business begins a new feature on our blogs called “The Weekend Digest,” a compilation of interesting feature stories, analyses and recommended reading from a variety of outside Arkansas sources for our business and political readers. The intent is to provide readers with a wide-ranging look at events happening in other states, developing trends and some leisurely reading on the weekends when the news tends to be a little slower. Your feedback is welcome — just drop me a note at [email protected].

The Times-Picayune takes an in-depth look at the prison system in Louisiana, a $182 million outsourced, for-profit industry in the state.

The investigative piece looks at the business model that sprouted several home-grown private prison companies and how the appetite to keep inmates in the system fuels the rural Louisiana economy.

Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.

If the inmate count dips, sheriffs bleed money. Their constituents lose jobs. The prison lobby ensures this does not happen by thwarting nearly every reform that could result in fewer people behind bars.

Arkansas, of course, has undergone a controversial overhaul of its prison system and the subject is likely to remain on the front-burner in coming sessions. Also, this article is likely to be held up for scrutiny in future legislative debates regarding the outsourcing of state services. More at this link.

Colorado lawmakers have been debating a proposal allowing for civil unions — not marriage — for same-sex couples. The bill would allow for basic legal protections for couples in same-sex relationships, such as transfer of property, insurance and medical decision-making.

The debate has led to a real showdown between Republican House leaders, who hold a slim margin in that chamber, and first-term Democratic Governor John  Hickenlooper.

The issue and its handling could be pivotal with independent voters in the November Presidential election as Colorado is considered a “purple” state, or swing state in the race.

Whatever your politics are on the topic, students of raw politics and political messaging will find the legislative maneuvering and public relations efforts fascinating. After Republicans successfully blocked the civil union measure in a regular session that quickly adjourned, they were immediately summoned back into a special session with a set agenda that included the bill by the Democratic Governor.

What happened next? Read more here from The Denver Post


The Las Vegas Sun has an interesting piece on supporters of Ron Paul and their efforts to work through and around the Nevada Republican Party.

Two weeks ago, Paul supporters, who have a very Libertarian bent, showed up at the state convention in masse and registered a majority of the delegates for the national GOP convention. The move caught party leaders by surprise and could have major consequences on the Presidential election.

That takeover has donors and party officials nervous that the new party organization will be more concerned with nominating Paul, or pushing his libertarian philosophy, than being the backbone of the GOP election effort. The stakes in Nevada are high. The state is one of a few toss-ups in the presidential race.

Nevada will be a battleground state for Romney and Obama this year. Democrats appear pretty organized at this juncture, while Republicans are in disarray. Read more at this link.

Former President Bill Clinton told a fiscal summit in Washington, D.C. this week that middle-class tax hikes combined with raising taxes on the wealthy may be the only way to balance the budget.

From Politico:

“This is just me now, I’m not speaking for the White House — I think you could tax me at a 100 percent and you wouldn’t balance the budget,” said Clinton, who has earned tens of millions of dollars since leaving office. “We are all going to have to contribute to this, and if middle class people’s wages were going up again, and we had some growth to the economy, I don’t think they would object to going back to tax rates [from] when I was president” – before the Bush tax cuts.

Clinton also talked about the lack of negotiation and compromise in the nation's capitol. Access the full article at this link.

It's been more than a decade since the Food and Drug Administration approved a weight-loss drug, but three new anti-obesity treatments could soon break that streak.

With as many as two-thirds of Americans falling into the “overweight” or “obese” category, safe drugs to help improve those conditions could result in less stress on the already overburdened U.S. health care system, some contend. Being overweight is a huge contributor to diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other extremely expensive health problems.

Could government health care programs such as Medicare or Medicaid pay for these weight loss medicines? If so, could that be a benefit to taxpayers in the long-run due to lower health care costs?

American Public Media's Marketplace examines the subject in this report.