An independent blog about the 2014 contest for U.S. senator between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and Libertarian David Patterson. By students and their instructor in a special journalism course at the University of Kentucky.
ECONOMY AND JOBS
By Paige Hobbs
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
The issues of minimum wage and how
to create jobs in Kentucky have played a major role in the race for the U.S.
Senate between Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Kentucky’s secretary of state, is pushing to raise the minimum wage and argues
that doing so will create more jobs.
McConnell disagrees and says it is
likely that he will become the Senate majority leader and thus able to set the
national agenda and help create jobs.
The minimum wage “has been raised
23 times since 1938. Still, its value today is far lower than it was two
generations ago,” William Finnegan wrote in The New Yorker in September. “The
1968 minimum wage, to take a high-water mark, was in real 2014 dollars, $10.95
an hour.” Democrats want to raise the wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour
over three years.
repeatedly points out that McConnell has voted against raising the minimum wage
17 times and that she will fight to bring to Kentucky a “living wage.”
McConnell has said that he might be for raising the wage at a time when the
economy was stronger.
the wage will decrease the number of jobs in Kentucky,” McConnell said in the
candidates’ only real debate, Oct. 13 on KET. “You will destroy between half a
million and 1 million jobs” nationally by passing the Democratic proposal.
“That’s not the way to grow our economy.”
numbers are from a February report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget
Office, which said “most low-wage workers “would receive higher pay . . . but some jobs for low-wage workers would
probably be eliminated . . . and the share of low-wage workers who were employed
would probably fall slightly.”
Grimes replied that “the full story
of the CBO report is it would help lift a million—over a million—Americans out
cites a report from the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “It shows when you
increase the wage up to $10.10 an hour, you actually increase our gross
domestic product, increase incomes across the commonwealth,” she said. “You
actually create over 2,200 good-paying jobs.” These projections are based on a
report from January 2014.
The KCEP has criticized the CBO
report, saying it “picked an employment impact estimate that is higher than a
large and growing body of research says is likely,” and said jobs losses would
occur primarily through attrition. It also noted that CBO said “24 million
low-wage workers stand to benefit from the proposed increase.”
Throughout the campaign Grimes has
criticized McConnell for his comment to The Beattyville Enterprise for saying
that bringing jobs to that area “is not my job.” The Enterprise reported that
it asked McConnell “what he was going to do to bring jobs to Lee County.”
He replied, “Economic development
is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job. It is the primary responsibility of
the state Commerce Cabinet.” He added that he was fighting to save coal jobs,
and talked about that and his other job-creation efforts in a speech in
Beattyville that day, which the newspaper did not cover.
During the KET debate, Grimes said
“I’m the only candidate in this race with a jobs plan and that’s how we put
Kentucky back to work. . . . That starts by closing the loopholes and ending
the tax breaks that Senator Mitch McConnell has given that has shipped our good
Fact-checkers have criticized that
characterization because McConnell didn’t vote for the tax breaks, but against
limiting the standard business deduction for moving expenses to moves within
the United States.
In the debate, McConnell responded
by calling the Obama administration a “jobs destroyer.” He said if elected, it is likely that he
would be the leader of the Senate majority, and “We’d be voting on things like
the Keystone pipeline, which would enable about 20,000 people to go to work
The candidates agreed on one thing
in the debate, that bringing jobs to Kentucky would be the greatest
accomplishment either could have in the next six-year Senate term.
By Cheyene Miller
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
The U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell
and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes has seen the candidates focus on several
key issues, including the coal industry, the minimum wage and health care.
health-care issue has been almost unique among Senate races in that Kentucky is
generally seen as a success story for the Patient Protection and Affordable
Care Act. In August, Gov. Steve Beshear said 521,000 of Kentucky’s 4.3 million
citizens had signed up for health coverage through Kynect, the state’s health
insurance marketplace created under the law.
to a Gallup-Healthways poll, published in August, Kentucky reduced its
percentage of uninsured more than any other state besides Arkansas, and lowered
the percentage of uninsured in the state from 20.4 percent to 11.9 percent,
thus covering two of every five uninsured Kentuckians.
In addition to funding the
expansion of Medicaid, the law requires Americans to either purchase private
health insurance or enroll in some form of government assisted health care like
Medicaid; requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing
conditions and provide 10 elements of coverage in each policy; allows parents
to keep their children on their health insurance until they are 26; and
requires businesses employing 50 or more full time employees to provide health
insurance, a provision that President Obama has suspended for a year.
McConnell says he wants to repeal
the law “root and branch,” but has been more lenient toward the idea of keeping
Kynect. In the Senate race debate on KET, McConnell suggested that Kynect was
merely a website. However, repealing the law could pose issues for the newly
insured in Kentucky because private insurance under Kynect uses federal tax
credits, and provides free Medicaid coverage to citizens who earn up to 138
percent of the federal poverty level.
According to Douglas McSwain, a
Lexington-based litigation attorney who specializes in constitutional and
health-care law, the uprooting of the law would result in drastic changes to
said repealing the ACA “root and branch” would mean cutting the federal tax
subsidies that are essential to Kynect’s survival.
“You take the exchange tax credit
away, do you think for a minute that the website is going to stand?” McSwain
asked. “Nobody is going to buy
At a Kentucky Farm Bureau forum in
August McConnell said Congress should have passed laws allowing health
insurance to be sold across state lines, limiting malpractice lawsuits and
making it easier for businesses to form health-insurance groups.
said the law allows formation of such groups, and interstate regulation “is
conceivable” but “The problem is we don’t have the infrastructure,
regulatory-wise, to do that without having reached a compact or an agreement”
among the states.
on the effects of malpractice reform, published by the New England Journal of
Medicine, found that Texas, Georgia and South Carolina did not see a
significant reduction in the amount of doctor-ordered tests and scans after
enacting reforms. A five-person team of
doctors performed the study, collecting data from 1997 through 2011.
has only publicly discussed health reform on select occasions, taking a similar
strategy to many Democrats in the 2014 midterm election because of the
unpopularity of “Obamacare” and its namesake.
When she does mention health care, she talks about fixing and
streamlining the law, as she did during the KET debate.
“I will not be a senator that rips
that insurance from their hand,” Grimes said in reference to the half a million
Kentuckians who’ve gained coverage under Kynect. She said McConnell was in a “fictional
Grimes has also talked about
supporting an extension of Obama’s “grandfathering” of insurance policies that
don’t comply with the law after he was criticized for not keeping his campaign
promise that Americans could keep their doctor and health plan if they liked
controversy and other aspects of the law have led to negative feelings among
Kentuckians about Obamacare. A poll by
Marist College for NBC News showed Obamacare had a 33 percent approval and 57
percent disapproval rating among Kentuckians, while Kynect had 29 percent
approval and a 22 percent disapproval., while 29 percent of those polled said
that they had never heard of Kynect and 21 percent were unsure of how to rate
report, about 80,000 Kentuckians had bought private insurance through Kynect
and about 440,000 had used it to get on Medicaid – 320,000 of whom were
eligible under the new rules and 120,000 under the what state officials call
“old Medicaid.” The federal government pays about 71 percent of “old Medicaid”
costs and, until the end of 2016, 100 percent of the newly eligibles’ coverage.
In 2017, it will pay 95 percent of the new costs, and fall to the reform law's
floor of 90 percent in 2020.
By Ben Tompkins University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
If you’ve been in front of a
television in Kentucky anytime in the past few weeks, you may have seen
advertisements throwing around a word that evokes strong emotion from both
sides of the political spectrum: amnesty.
U.S. Senate race between Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison
Lundergan Grimes, amnesty as it relates to immigration has been a main topic of
voted against the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate
and says he’d rather see the issue be dealt with in a series of separate bills.
He HeHe He Hhas said
comprehensive approaches to big problems can go “terribly awry,” and said at
the Kentucky Farm Bureau forum in August, “We need to make changes, more
merit-based, to people who can immediately help our country.”
who has been short on specifics for many of her platform stances, has voiced
clear support for the bill, which has languished in the Republican-controlled
committees supporting McConnell have called the bill “amnesty” because it would
create what Grimes and other advocates call a “pathway to citizenship” for
people who are in the U.S. illegally.
According to the Merriam-Webster
dictionaries, amnesty is a pardon granted to a large number of people, or
release from guilt or penalty for an offense. Black’s Law Dictionary defines it
as “A sovereign act of pardon . . . for past acts, granted by a government to
all persons (or to certain persons) who have been guilty of . . . generally
The word does not fit the measure
Grimes supports, Glenn Kessler wrote in the Fact Checker blog for the
bill had become law,” Kessler wrote, “undocumented immigrants would have had to
jump through all sorts of hoops before they could be considered for legal
permanent residence, including registering with the government, having a steady
job, paying a fine, paying back taxes, passing background checks, learning
English – and then getting in line behind immigrants who had entered the
country legally.” Under the provisions of the bill, earned citizenship would be
a 13-year process.
In recent radio and TV commercials,
Grimes has attempted to distance herself from the use of the word and asserts
it is McConnell who supports amnesty, citing a bill passed in 1986 with his
vote, granting conditional amnesty to 3 million undocumented immigrants. After
the ads describe the bill, they say “Mitch is at the heart of everything that’s
wrong in Washington.” However, the 1986 bill required steps similar to those in
the current bill in order to gain citizenship.
both sides are using amnesty as a loaded word, which in one context suggests
unconditionally pardoning millions who broke the law. Grimes, however, uses the
word in the context that emphasizes an earned pathway to citizenship.
got a good job, you have a background check, you learn English, you pay your
taxes,” Grimes said recently. “That's the American way.”
at a recent a Commerce Lexington event that the issue is important in Kentucky
because undocumented workers make up 4 percent of the state’s workforce. That
number could not be confirmed; the Grimes campaign did not respond to requests
for its source.
A state with a sizeable
agricultural economy, Kentucky could stand to benefit from creating an earned
pathway to citizenship for agricultural workers, whether through a
comprehensive or piecemeal approach.
There is broader support in
Congress for measures regarding agricultural workers than many other aspects of
the Senate-passed bill. One provision would make it easier for experienced
agriculture workers who are in the country illegally to move one step closer to
obtaining a green card and legal residency in the U.S. They would have to pay
all taxes, a $400 fee, have no convictions for felonies or violent
misdemeanors, and have had at least five years of agricultural employment for
at least 100 work days per year, or at least three years of agricultural
employment for at least 150 work days per year.