Sunday, July 22, 2007

Abuses: Wellmark, Insurance, Athletics, Media

July 22, 2007, 7:40, 8:00, 9:20 a.m.

Wellmark Naming, Insurance Abuses, Sicko, Grassley on Athletics Tax Abuses, Media

Wellmark Naming
(As always, the Press-Citizen's skilled graphic artist and editorial cartoonist, Bob Patton, is able to tell the story with a few strokes of his pen. This from the July 21 Press Citizen.)

Letters to the editor of Iowa's papers are now rolling in on the Wellmark naming controversy -- virtually all of them ridiculing the proposal and praising those who are resisting selling off the University's integrity.

Even the Register has turned around; having formerly given the College of Public Health faculty a "thistle" for turning down the money this morning it took some tweezers and removed that thistle and stuck it in Pomerantz instead.

Here are the Register's letters to the editor this morning, July 22:

Keith McKinley, "If they start naming colleges after corporations, what's next, the great Wells Fargo State Capitol?"

Paul J. Kaufmann, "Corporate Sponsorships Endanger Credible Research"

Stu Bassman, "No good deed goes unpunished"

Mike Burkart/Maria Houser Conzemius, "Register thistle aimed at U of I a poke in the eye of integrity"

David Brewbaker, "Wellmark could put its $15 million to better use"

Insurance Industry Abuses

The Register is doing a four-day series of stories and opinion pieces about the inadequacies, and outright abuses, from the "health-claim-denying," profit-maximizing insurance industry. Here are some editorial pieces from today (July 22, 2007):

"Help "Iowans resolve insurance headaches; State funds $300K program, with part sales pitch included"

"Questions and Answers About Long-Term-Care Insurance"

Andie Dominick (editorial), "Diagnosis: Dementia But She Was Denied Coverage"

"'It's Not Giving Us the Help We Thought We Would Get'"

"Consumer's guide to long-term-care insurance; ASSURANCE DENIED: Troubles with long-term-care insurance"

(There are more in the Press-Citizen and Gazette.


Looked in for awhile on a theater-full of folks watching "Sicko" last night. Based on their reactions, I'd say they clearly "got it." The political question, of course, is whether the sadness and laughter Michael Moore evokes in his audiences will get translated into citizen demand for the health care accorded those who live in civilized countries -- and, if so, whether it can ever be enough to overcome the millions of dollars from big pharma and the insurance industry that is currently dictating our candidates' "health care" proposals.

Grassley on Athletic Programs' Tax Cheats

Senator Grassley (Senate Finance Committee) isn't letting go of his concern regarding the propriety of funding lavish college coaches' salaries and other expenses with wealthy donors' tax deductions. Scott Dochterman, "Give and Take; College Sports Have Come to Depend on Tax-Exempt Donations; Has This Mutually Beneficial Arrangement Spun Out of Control?; Grassley Questions Whether Exemptions, Education Mix," The Gazette, July 22, 2007, p. A1 (also by Docterman, "Change in Tax Status Deemed Unlikely" and "Grassley Aims to Protect Incentives for Giving and Keep Donors Honest," p. A13).

Some numbers:

"Tax exempt donations have helped increase the University of Iowa's athletics department budget by 42 percent" from $43.5 to $61.5 million

It is now self-sustaining, and during the last two years generated a $21 million surplus; Iowa State's athletic budget jumped 31%, from $28 to $36.8 million, including $3 million in state support, hopes are it can add $5.6 million in contributions (since it had to drop swimming and baseball to help pay for a $19.5 million refurbishing of Jack Trice Stadium)

Tax exempt donations help "pay football coach Kirk Ferentz nearly $3 million annually"

Ohio State's athletic budget will exceed $100 million this year

80% of what's paid for a skybox at Kinnick is considered a charitable, tax exempt contribution

NCAA teams brought in and spent $7.8 billion in 2005 -- of which $275 million is corporate sponsorships, and $845 million is "donations and contributions"

T. Boone Pickens gave $165 million to the University of Oklahoma athletic program

Iowa spent $90 million refurbishing the Kinnick Stadium -- and for what? Six games will be played there this year. Most games run about 3-1/2 hours (and include, I'm told, a total of about 7 to 12 minutes of actual action, with multiples of that time devoted to commercials). At 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year, counting 3-1/2 hours a game, that's 21 hours of use out of 8760 hours a year -- 99.76% of the time sitting empty; 24/100ths of 1% of the time being used. (Even with a 40-hour-a-week, 50-week-a-year (with two weeks vacation) 2000-hour year it's but 1%.)

Grassley's just asking -- not declaring, just asking -- what does this multi-billion-dollar industry have to do with charitable, tax deductible contributions for "educational purposes"? Good question.

How the Media Failed Us

The media -- at least the responsible sectors thereof -- has been going through a mea culpa recently over how it failed the American people by serving as cheerleaders for the Iraq war. Here are a couple more in this morning's Register.

Rekha Basu, "Writer Calls Out Peers, President," Des Moines Register, July 22, 2007 (Helen Thomas)

Richard Doak, "Media's Failure to Challenge Case for War Stains Industry," Des Moines Register, July 22, 2007

# # #


John Barleykorn said...

Well, even if they strip the tax deduction I will still give to I-Club. I will give to I-Club before the Political Science Department (My BA) at the UI every single time. Deduction be damned.

It is SO SO patronizing to get their newsletters groveling for money and saying I am important as an alum when I was nothing but an inconvenient undergradute nuisance to them when I was in school.

Iowa'sPolitical Science Department does nothing. At least ISU prepares people for careers in local government. A political science degree at Iowa is barely better than a high school diploma.

Anonymous said...

Some jokes just write themselves.