Liddick: Promises, promises
Time to explore Colorado’s world of wishful thinking. You know, the kind encouraged, promoted and fertilized with the political season’s usual effluvia until it grows like Kudzu in the Mississippi summer, covering everything around it in an impenetrable barrier of sticky, clinging weed.
Let’s start with that hardy perennial sprouting on the field of dreams: the “New Energy Economy.” How many of you had that “tingle up the leg” when you heard about the Xcel/Boulder City Council plan to install “smart” electrical meters as a first step to the marvelous new, efficient “smart grid” that would eventually be able to adjust your electrical consumption so that everyone would only use electricity during off-peak hours? Tell the truth, now …
We were assured it wouldn’t cost a dime, the expense of the meters more than being offset by the more efficient use of electricity. And though it was just a pilot project, sooner or later these efficiencies would be shared with all of Colorado, and maybe, just maybe, our smartness would spread across the nation.
We now see the results of this experiment: costs tripled to just under $45 million. Worse, it seems the Public Utility Commission, which approved the project, thinks this spectacular failure was just fine. Useful, even. So God forbid Xcel eat the results of its wildly optimistic estimates. No, that’s your job.
And that’s not even part of the reason electricity rates in the Denver metro area went up more than 21 percent in the first six months of this year, the second highest in the nation. This despite a new tiered rate structure, which was sold as a way to “keep costs low.” Really? The average rate increase for urban areas across the U.S. was three-tenths of a percent in the same period. Nice work, everyone.
In fairness, it seems most of this pain was self-inflicted, a result of restructuring the sources of electrical power away from coal and toward natural gas – a more expensive, if somewhat cleaner, fuel. At present, gas is plentiful and cheap in Colorado. But wait until complaints about drilling for the stuff and additional regulations impact supply and we start competing with Chicago and Washington D.C. on price.
Think this inability to say “no” to plans that promise a fabulously low cost “new energy” utopia is a problem that only affects the Front Range? Better think again. We’re plugged into Xcel here, and whatever hare-brained scheme of theirs goes wrong anywhere in Colorado, it will eventually wind up on your electric bill – despite assurances to the contrary. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
And there’s more. Remember the promise that part of the cost of Obamacare would be squeezed out of Medicare through “cost savings?” That was what finally caused the CBO to rate the plan “revenue neutral,” allowing it to squeak through Congress, yes?
Not only has Congress subsequently refused to “cut costs” for Medicare – particularly payments for physician services which were already on the block before the bill passed, but recently we’ve been treated to a reality check from our future – and it hurts.
Two of the University of Colorado Hospital’s major clinics, essential parts of Colorado’s “safety net,” have announced they will no longer accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. They can’t afford to treat them; the government-mandated level of payment is too low, actually declining 50 percent in the past 15 years. This while the state has recently added 100,000 people to Medicaid rolls.
Denver Health’s clinics still see Medicaid patients, but there’s a 3,000-person waiting list to see a family practice doctor. Of course that’s not “rationing.” Oh, no.
Speaking of grim futures, there are the governor’s increasingly frantic attempts to deal with the state’s looming budget deficit (again!). This time he proposes to seize more than $41 million from funds generated from oil and gas leasing revenues, intended for local communities and higher education. But it’s only this one time. He promises …
Then there’s the guv’s finest idea: Grab the nine million bucks accumulated from fees associated with supply and consumption of pot, um, “medical marijuana.” How he plans to legally justify what is plainly a tax on “medicine” is unclear, but it just has to be done. Honest.
I dare not include the messages and mud from this year’s races for office; you’d need a weed whacker the size of Cleveland to get through that mess. Just remember: from now until November, you are going to hear more fibs on radio and TV than you would buying the average used car. You’ll have to keep your wits about you.
Whether you’re funding the state through that bong in the medicine cabinet, or not.
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