Kentucky editorial roundup

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

Nov. 29

The Independent, Ashland, Ky., on having more engineers:

What can make Kentucky’s proverbial “Golden Triangle” — the prosperous and economically booming area of the state formed by the cities of Louisville, Lexington and Covington — even more golden? More engineers, say the mayors of the state’s two largest cities.

A new report released Monday says the area anchored by both cities has the potential for a significant boost in manufacturing jobs. However, the entire region needs more engineers to reach its full potential.

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says Kentucky ranks near the bottom nationally in the number of engineers it produces. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer points to engineers as “job-creating machines,” saying their work spins off other jobs. Having more engineers would expand the region’s manufacturing clout.

While our corner of Kentucky is more than 100 miles east of the Golden Triangle, there also is a need for more engineers in northeast Kentucky. In western Kentucky, economic development leaders have tried to convince the University of Louisville to offer a satellite engineering program in Paducah or Murray in hopes of training engineers who will remain in the area.

Fischer and Gray are urging Gov. Steve Beshear to include money in his budget proposal to lawmakers next year that would expand engineering programs at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, the only two schools with engineering programs. It will not be easy to come up with additional funds to train more engineers at a time when funding for higher education is stagnant and other state programs are being cut, but rather than an expense, money to train more engineers should be considered a wise investment in the state’s economic future.



Dec. 1

Herald-Leader, Lexington, Ky., on drug abuse:

By now everyone who cares knows that thousands of people have died as the result of drug abuse in Kentucky, leaving tens of thousands of wounded family members and friends.

They know that the federal and state governments have showered hundreds of millions of dollars on the problem and the state of Kentucky has spent, literally, billions locking up people who have committed crimes related to their drug dependency.

As Bill Estep carefully documented in a group of chilling stories in Sunday’s Herald-Leader, the war against drug abuse in Eastern Kentucky is well into its third decade. And, while individual stories of recovery are many and gratifying, no one sees victory on the horizon.

The most basic reason for this frustrating, tragic and expensive stalemate is lack of opportunity.

Noting that a key predictor for drug abuse is low social rank, Estep quoted Robert Walker, a researcher at the University of Kentucky’s Center for Drug and Alcohol Research. …

The Times reported on the findings of Columbia University’s Carl Hart, whose research with crack and meth users found they turned down drug use when an attractive alternative was presented in the form of a monetary reward, even though it was delayed — a rational response. The response when no reward is on the horizon is equally rational, according to Hart. …

The solution is both simple and overwhelming: Change the economic and social environment.

It’s really the task that confronts the more than 1,000 people who will gather Monday in Pikeville for the SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) summit convened by Gov. Steve Beshear and Rep. Hal Rogers to find ways to move Kentucky’s Appalachian region forward.

There are a dozen good reasons to improve educational opportunities in Eastern Kentucky, fight political corruption and create a diverse economy that offers good jobs that can lead to better ones.

But they all come back to the same thing: We no longer can tolerate, or afford, the human wreckage that grows out of despair.



Dec. 2

Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky., on Medicaid and the tale of two states:

Perhaps Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will explain his politics of personal responsibility to Lorinda Fox, 58, a hard-working New Albany woman who can’t afford health care and hasn’t been to a doctor in 21 years.

Why Gov. Pence? Because he and some of his fellow Republicans in the Indiana legislature are directly responsible for blocking the access of Fox and hundreds of thousands of Indiana citizens to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

They have decided to reject expansion of Medicaid under the law also known as Obamacare, an expansion that could help as many as 475,000 low-income, uninsured Hoosiers get health care, The Courier-Journal’s Laura Ungar reported Sunday.

Their shockingly callous explanation? They believe some of the lowest-paid, poorest citizens of Indiana should be more financially responsible and cost-conscious when it comes to health care.

What that really means, said Rebecca White, 50, of New Albany, is that Gov. Pence “in his wisdom has made a decision for me that I don’t deserve health insurance.”

White, 50, who earns about $10,000 a year as a children’s tutor, and Fox, a retail worker paid about $12,000 a year, were among several Hoosiers Ungar profiled who are struggling to survive on low wages with no health coverage and no way to pay for it.

Meanwhile, just across the Ohio River, Kentucky residents are flocking to sign up for health care under the new health law including those eligible for expanded Medicaid, which Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, wisely decided to accept.

Originally, the health law would have required Medicaid expansion nationwide. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in upholding the law, also made the Medicaid expansion optional for states — a loophole some officials, chiefly Republicans, scrambled to exploit, putting partisan posing ahead of the health of their poorest citizens.

Gov. Pence and Hoosier lawmakers who dismissed health care reform should review the Courier-Journal’s Sunday Forum section where the contrast between Kentucky — which embraced the health law — and Indiana’s cold shoulder is painfully clear.

An article from the Washington Post details how residents of Breathitt County, Ky., one of the poorest and unhealthiest places in the nation, are benefiting from the expansion. Some people there are eligible for commercial plans through Kentucky’s kynect health exchange and others through Medicaid.

Poor and low-wage citizens of the county are lining up to sign up for health care, some expressing disbelief mixed with delight that, for the first time in their lives, they will get medical care without fear of crushing debt.

Another piece in the Sunday Forum, by University of Kentucky physician Alice Thornton, describes how AIDS patients at UK’s Bluegrass Care Clinic have broken into tears of joy and relief upon learning they are eligible for health coverage under the Affordable Care law.

Meanwhile, the stance of officials in Indiana and 24 other states against Medicaid expansion leaves hundreds of thousands of poor citizens ineligible for Medicaid yet unable to afford commercial plans available under the new law.

It leaves Indiana’s Lorinda Fox living in fear that a single costly illness or accident could cause her to lose the home she shares with a daughter who has a hearing disability.

It leaves Barbara Anderson, who runs Southern Indiana’s only homeless shelter, watching up to a dozen homeless clients die each year from lack of access to health care.

And it leaves Rebecca White to conclude she doesn’t deserve health insurance in Indiana that she easily would qualify for in Kentucky.

If Gov. Pence needs support from fellow Republican governors, he could look to Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich recently pushed through a Medicaid expansion over objections of GOP lawmakers, saying he is unwilling to turn his back on residents of the Buckeye State desperate for health care.

Let’s hope more Republican leaders from other states have the courage to follow Gov. Kasich’s example. Otherwise, voters must turn their backs on such callous elected leaders.


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