The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The nation’s unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent in September — the lowest jobless rate in nearly four years. The country added 114,000 jobs during the month, and labor participation actually rose with 418,000 people joining the labor force. Jobs numbers for July and August were also revised upward, indicating that the summer’s economy was not as weak as previously estimated. Unlike previous reports that were mired with dropping labor participation rates and job additions below expectations, this report paints a generally rosy picture of a recovering economy.
A new report found Ohio-based Murray Energy might be coercing employees into making campaign contributions to Republicans. It seems Bob Murray, Murray Energy’s CEO, directly encourages employees to make donations through memos and strong language. As a result, the company has an unusually high amount of donations to Republican candidates, including senatorial candidate Josh Mandel, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and House Speaker John Boehner. The company’s PAC and staffers are the sixth biggest source of funding for Mandel.By their own admission, Republicans misrepresented Issue 2. The good news is they have agreed to stop using some of the misleading language. If Issue 2 is approved by voters, it will give redistricting powers to an independent citizens commission. Currently, elected officials redraw the district boundaries, and they use the system in politically advantageous ways. The Republican majority redrew the First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati to include Warren County, which places less emphasis on urban voters that typically vote Democrat and more emphasis on rural voters that typically vote Republican. CityBeat previously covered redistricting and Voters First’s reform here.
The state auditor gave a mixed review to Ohio’s schools and education department yesterday. In an interim report, the auditor criticized a handful of school districts for scrubbing attendance reports and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for having poor oversight. ODE promised “additional safeguards” in response to the report.Gov. John Kasich is continuing his privatization campaign. The governor is finally close to leasing the Ohio Turnpike, and he says that could raise more than $1 billion.
It turns out Kasich’s number about Ohio’s auto industry losing 500 jobs might be correct, but only because of the time frame and terms Kasich used. In general, the auto industry in Ohio has improved since 2009.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is leading the charge, but it’s only the beginning. A few movies are taking advantage of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit, which is meant to bring film production to Ohio. Seven films will be filmed in Ohio: Underdogs, Crooked Tree, Blood of Redemption, The Tribunal, A Dog Named Suki, In Other Words and The Do Over. Since the tax credit began, the Ohio Film Office has helped employ more than 19,000 Ohioans and added nearly $205 million to Ohio’s economy.
Some in the aerospace business want southwest Ohio to take bigger advantage of the area’s strong aerospace industry and make it stronger.
A survey found Ohio is among the 25 best states for entrepreneurs. The state moved up 18 spots — from No. 40 to No. 22 — in the past year.
Update on Ohio Supreme Court candidate William O’Neill’s demands for Justice Robert Cupp to “recuse or refuse” due to campaign donations: Mark Weaver, Cupp’s spokesperson, responded, saying, “Mr. O'Neill previously raised this argument with disciplinary authorities by filing a complaint. It was reviewed by disciplinary authorities, and they unanimously dismissed it as having no merit.”
An Eden Park microbrewery got approval from City Council.
A study found students enrolled in parents’ health care plans are 5.7 percent more likely to attend college full time. The finding is good news for Obamacare, which forces insurance companies to allow sons and daughters to stay on family insurance plans until they turn 26.
Robot sea turtles might soon carry cargo in their shells.
Cincinnati may have a deficit estimated to be between $34 million and $40 million, but that didn't stop City Council from voting 6-2 Thursday to approve a $23,000 raise and one-time $35,000 bonus for City Manager Milton Dohoney, the highest-paid city employee. The raise brings his salary up from $232,000 to $255,000. Council members Chris Seelbach and Chris Smitherman voted against the raise. P.G. Sittenfeld also opposed the raise and bonus, but he missed the vote because he was out of town for personal reasons. If City Council balances the budget for the next year and fires someone making $58,000 or less to help do so, the raise and one-time bonus could have meant one person’s job.
City Council also voted 8-0 to encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce mandatory labeling of all genetically engineered (GE) food. Alison Auciello, Ohio-based organizer for Food & Water Watch, praised the move in a statement: “Genetically engineered foods are potentially unsafe, and consumers should have the right to decide for themselves if they want to eat GE foods. It took regulation to get food processors to label ingredients and nutrition facts on labels, and now we’re calling for federal lawmakers to require the labeling of GE food.”
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in October, down from 7.1 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The numbers were mostly positive with the amount of unemployed dropping by 10,000 and the amount of employed rising by 13,900. The civilian labor force also grew, although it was still below Oct. 2011 levels. Most gains were seen in service-providing industries, professional and business services and government. In comparison, the federal unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent in October, up from 7.8 percent in September.
The Anna Louise Inn won another zoning appeal yesterday. The victory upheld a conditional use permit for the Inn, which will allow Cincinnati Union Bethel, which owns the Inn, to carry on with $13 million renovations. Western & Southern has vowed to appeal the ruling.
Income inequality in Ohio is wide and growing. A new study found the gap between the rich and poor is widening, with the lower and middle classes actually losing real income since the 1990s.
After Thanksgiving, the Cincinnati Zoo team will be studying penguins off the coast of Chile.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble is having no part in the good unemployment news. The company announced another round of job cuts as part of a large restructuring program. It’s unclear how the cuts will impact Cincinnati.
Hostess, maker of Twinkies, is going out of business. The company blamed a workers’ strike for the move, but Hostess has been having problems for a long time. The company has already filed for bankruptcy twice this decade.
The Ohio Board of Regents launched OhioMeansSuccess.org, a website meant to place students on a path to college and a successful career.
Russia can get pretty hardcore. While herding sheep, one grandmother fended off and killed a wolf with an axe.
The U.S. Navy is retiring its mine-sweeping dolphins and replacing them with robots.
Conservative groups are pushing Ohio to purge its voter rolls. The move is largely seen by Democrats as an attempt to disenfranchise and suppress voters. The groups in support of the purge, which include Judicial Watch and True the Vote, typically cite voter-related errors and voter fraud as the main reason for their efforts, but there have been 10 cases of in-person voter fraud since 2000, according to a News21 study. Florida Gov. Rick Scott also pushed for a voter purge in his state, but Democrats vowed to fight the purge at every step.The Historic Conservation Board ruled in favor of the Anna Louise Inn yesterday. The ruling means the inn can now move ahead with its multi-million renovation project. The board’s ruling was despite Western & Southern, which has tried to block the renovation as part of a broader attempt to shut down the inn and buy up the property. CityBeat extensively covered W&S’s attempts here.
Cincinnati is No. 7 in the country for job growth, a study from Arizona State University found. Cincinnati beat out Riverside, Calif., but it lost to San Francisco, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle and San Diego.Secretary of State Jon Husted was advised to fire the Democrats on the Montgomery Board of Elections by Jon Allison, who overheard the hearing on the firings on Aug. 20. Allison is also the former chief of staff to Republican Gov. Bob Taft. The Democrats on the board attempted to expand in-person early voting to weekends despite Husted’s call to uniform voting hours that include no weekend voting. Ohio Democratic Party Chris Redfern said the recommendation was “no surprise” and the Republican Party should be expected to support voter suppression by now.
Josh Mandel, excessive liar, Ohio treasurer and senatorial candidate for Ohio, described Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio as “un-American” for his vote supporting the auto bailout, which helped protect 850,000 jobs in Ohio’s auto industry. But Mandel still refuses to give specifics on what he would have done differently to protect the auto industry.The federal government has given the go-ahead for fracking in Wayne National Forest in Ohio. The go-ahead will open up more than 3,300 acres for auction. Environmental critics say fracking is unsafe and should be banned, but Gov. John Kasich insists the process can be made safe with proper regulations. Previous analyses have found natural gas, which is produced from fracking, could help combat climate change. CityBeat previously covered the uncertainty behind fracking here.
Kentucky is getting another creationist attraction. Apparently not content with the false claims asserted at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter, a new group wants to build a brick-and-mortar for the Founders of Creation Science Hall of Fame.Republicans almost went a day without saying something offensive about women. Tom Smith, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania’s senate seat, compared pregnancy from rape to pregnancy out of wedlock. Last week, Paul Ryan, Republican vice presidential candidate, described rape as a "method of conception."
Most people might not remember it since it’s rarely mentioned in the news anymore, but America is still at war in Afghanistan. Yesterday, the Taliban beheaded 17 civilians for having a party, two U.S. soldiers were killed by an Afghan soldier and 10 Afghan soldiers died to insurgents.A private funeral service is planned in Cincinnati for Neil Armstrong, who died last Saturday. A public funeral will be held at Wapakoneta. Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon. His first steps inspired curiosity and innovation around the world when he said, “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Politicians will talk up Armstrong’s accomplishment in the following days, but Democrats and Republicans both supported cuts to NASA’s budget in recent years that Armstrong opposed.
With 1,500 people leaving the labor force in one month, Cincinnati had a seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in September, according to new data released today by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. The city’s unemployment is still above the unadjusted rate of 6.4 percent for Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati.
For Cincinnati, that’s a 0.7 percent drop from August’s unemployment rate, which was revised upward to 7.6 percent. However, most of that drop comes from the 1,500 people who left the labor force, which combines the number of unemployed people looking for work with the amount of employed people. About 400 less Cincinnatians were employed in September than they were in August.
The new numbers show Cincinnati’s labor force was actually smaller in September than it was in September 2011. Back in September 2011, the labor force was made up of 144,800 people. In September 2012, it was 144,500. Still, more people are working in September 2012 than they were in September 2011; in that time frame, the employment number went up from 131,200 to 134,500.
Both Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County also had mixed numbers. They both saw their seasonally unadjusted unemployment rates drop from 6.8 to 6.4 percent between August and September, but both saw their labor forces and employment numbers shrink as more people quit looking for work and left the work force.
However, Hamilton County and Greater Cincinnati had their labor forces and employment numbers grow between September 2011 and September 2012, effectively making the gains throughout the year positive.
One bright spot for Cincinnati is its seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate remains below the U.S. rate of 7.6 percent. It remains above Ohio’s unadjusted rate of 6.5 percent, however.
The unemployment numbers are calculated through a household survey. The unemployment rate measures the amount of unemployed people looking for work in contrast to the total labor force. Since the numbers are derived from surveys, they are often revised in later months. The state and federal numbers are typically adjusted to fit seasonal employment patterns to give a more consistent rate.
Someone really smart in Todd Portune’s office warned his or her superiors that the monthly first-Wednesday siren test might scare the living hell out of tens of thousands of foreign people visiting Cincinnati for the World Choir Games, so there will be no siren test this month.
River Downs applied for some slot machines, the second racetrack in the state to do so.
Here’s the latest person to write about how screwed Mitt
Romney is due to the constitutional health care mandate or, more
importantly, the similar one he passed in Massachusetts. MSNBC says the Bain attacks are hurting Romney. And
Mother Jones says this: “Romney Invested in Medical-Waste Firm That
Disposed of Aborted Fetuses, Government Documents Show.”
And Obama is “feeling the pain” of campaign fundraising. Whatever that means.
Here’s all you need to know about torture in Syria. Thanks, Human Rights Watch.
Anderson Cooper publicly announced that he’s gay after a discussion with friend and journalist Andrew Sullivan of The Daily Beast regarding celebrities coming out. Cooper emailed Sullivan about the matter and gave him permission to print it.
“I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.
“The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”
Scientists are saying that recent heat waves, wild fires and other seemingly random natural disasters are due to global warming. And we thought it was only going to be our kids’ problem. :(
Meanwhile, European physicists hope to find the God
particle by the end of the year, explaining the creation of the world.
Here’s video of a British guy trying to explain what the particle is
using a plastic tray and ping pong balls.
The NFL is going to back off some of its local blackout
rules. Teams now must only hit 85 percent of their ticket sales goal
rather than 100 percent to avoid making local markets watch crappy
regional games instead of their favorite teams. That means more Bengals games, less crappy Browns broadcasts.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.Josh Mandel, state treasurer and Republican U.S. senatorial candidate for Ohio, is denying he physically confronted a campaign tracker. According to Mandel, the tracker approached and confronted him, not the other way around. But the video of the confrontation shows Mandel approaching and getting really close to the tracker first. Ohio Democrats, who said Mandel’s campaign is a “campaign of unending dishonesty,” were quick to jump on another example of Mandel possibly being dishonest. CityBeat covered Mandel’s notorious dishonesty here. Mandel is running against Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Michelle Obama was in town yesterday. She spoke to a crowd of 6,800, asking them to take part in Ohio’s early voting process and encourage friends and family to do the same.
Grocery store competition could soon be bringing lower prices to the Greater Cincinnati area, according to analysts.
JobsOhio chief Mark Kvamme is stepping down. The high-profile venture capitalist, who was originally from California, was originally recruited by Gov. John Kasich to lead the Ohio Department of Development. But soon Kvamme hopped onto JobsOhio, a nonprofit company established by Kasich and the state legislature to bring investment into Ohio. Under Kvamme’s leadership, JobsOhio, which is supposed to replace the Department of Development, has brought in 400 companies to invest in Ohio, leading to $6.1 billion in capital investment, according to a press release. But the nonprofit company has been heavily criticized by liberal groups like Progress Ohio, which say JobsOhio is unconstitutional. Lower courts have generally legitimized Progress Ohio’s claims, but the Ohio Supreme Court recently turned down a case dealing with JobsOhio. The court said a lower court would have to give a declaratory judgment first.
William O’Neill, former judge and Democratic candidate for the Ohio Supreme Court, is asking Republican justices Robert Cupp and Terrence O’Donnell to “recuse or refuse.” O’Neill says the Republican justices are sitting on cases that involve FirstEnergy, an Akron-based energy company that has contributed to the re-election campaigns of Cupp and O’Donnell. O’Neill says the conflict of interest diminishes faith in the highest court of Ohio’s justice system.
A new study on Taser use in Hamilton County found local law enforcement have some problematic policies on the books and in practice. The study was put together by a local law firm that’s demanding policy reform.
Americans United for Life (AUL) is celebrating a federal court ruling against Planned Parenthood that maintains Ohio regulations on an abortion drug. The regulations require physicians to administer the drug in a clinic or physician’s office, and the drug may only be taken within 49 days of gestation. AUL says health groups like Planned Parenthood want to avoid sound health regulations, but Planned Parenthood argues the regulations make it too difficult for women to use the drug.
Natalie Portman is in a new commercial in support of President Barack Obama. In the ad, she touts Obama’s support of women’s rights.
It seems most Americans are avoiding or can’t afford as many trips to the doctor as before.
One of the most lucrative criminal enterprises in the world is wood.
It turns out the vampire squid is not a lethal ocean predator. Still, who wouldn't run away from that?
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final debate for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat is tonight. Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel will meet in Cincinnati to continue a feisty exchange of ideas and sometimes insults. In the last debate, the candidates drew sharp contrasts on policy, which CityBeat covered in-depth here. The final debate will be tonight at 7 p.m. on all Ohio NBC news stations, including WLWT.com. In aggregate polling, Brown is currently up 5.2 points against Mandel.
Want to see what a biased headline from a local newspaper looks like? Here you go, from Business Courier:
Romney win would boost economy, economist says. Strangely enough, the article says re-electing President Barack Obama could also lift the economy, which makes the misleading headline even worse. Unfortunately for the newspaper, Obama is currently leading by 2.1 points in
Ohio against Mitt Romney, and the state will play a pivotal role in the
election. Romney is leading by 0.6 points nationally.
A group is trying to convince Cincinnatians to vote no on Issue 4. The initiative, which is on 2012’s ballot, would extend City Council terms from two to four years. Supporters of Issue 4 say it lets City Council focus more on passing laws and less on campaigning, but opponents say it makes it more difficult to hold City Council accountable.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp is distancing himself from a TV ad put out by the Ohio Republican Party that depicts his Democratic opponent, William O’Neill, as sympathetic to rapists. Liberal blog Plunderbund called the ad “tone deaf,” referencing recent instances of Republican senatorial candidates turning rape into a legitimate issue. The Republican Senate candidate for Indiana, Richard Mourdock, recently said during a debate, “I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” Previously, the Republican Senate candidate for Missouri, Todd Akin, told reporters when discussing pregnancy caused by rape, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
CityBeat looked at some of the benefits and downsides of green water infrastructure yesterday. Basically, it’s going to produce more jobs and economic growth, but it’s going to require long-term commitment and education. Later today, CityBeat will be talking to some city officials of how that green infrastructure can be adopted in Cincinnati.
Hamilton County’s budget is tight, and that means no wage hike for county workers anytime soon, according to Hamilton County Commission President Greg Hartmann.
Gov. John Kasich is taking his time in filling an open Board of Education seat. Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, says, “We just want to get the right person.” But state law requires the seat be filled within 30 days, and the seat has been vacant for a month.
An Ohio judge said provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct and polling location must still be counted.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble beat Wall Street expectations, easing concerns from skeptical investors.
Huntington National Bank is relaunching its credit card business in a move that will produce 250 new jobs, and Greater Cincinnati is expected to land some of those jobs.
Ohio is getting a little love from Airbus. The aerospace company will be getting more of its parts from Ohio manufacturers. Cincinnati-based GE Aviation is already Airbus’ biggest U.S. supplier.
A new health care report found health providers often
cover up mistakes in fear of retaliation. The report also found health
care has been slow at embracing the “culture of safety.”
Apparently, strict parents raise conservative kids.
Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel met once again Thursday night for a debate to see who is more qualified for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. The candidates were a bit less feisty in their final debate, but the substance behind their words was fairly similar to the past two debates.
Mandel spent a bit less time attacking Brown for “Washington speak,” and Brown spent a bit less time attacking Mandel for dishonesty. However, Mandel did spend a bit more time attacking Brown for being a “career politician,” and both candidates criticized each other for voting along party lines.
Some new details did emerge when Brown and Mandel discussed Social Security. Mandel clarified he would raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare for those around his age — 35 — and younger. To justify the raise, he said life expectancy has grown since those laws were first put into place. He also claimed, “If we maintain the status quo, which is the way of Washington, there will be no Medicare or Social Security.”
Brown responded by saying he wouldn’t raise the eligibility age or reduce benefits, but he would increase the payroll tax cap.
In the case of Mandel’s proposal, there is some important context missing. While it’s true life expectancy has increased in the U.S., it has not increased at the same level for everyone. A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office found life expectancy is lagging for low-income individuals, while it’s steadily rising for the wealthiest Americans. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology had similar findings. These studies show increases in the average life expectancy may not be reflective of what’s actually happening within the poor and even middle class. In other words, raising the eligibility age to match the rise in life expectancy could disproportionately hurt the lower classes.
There are also some holes in gauging the eligibility age for entitlement programs with a rise in the average life expectancy. Social Security was enacted in 1935. Between the law passing and 2007, the U.S. child mortality rate dropped about 3.3 percent per year for children between the ages of one and four, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This large drop in child mortality rate could be exaggerating gains in life expectancy, which is an average that takes into account the age of deceased children.
Mandel’s implication that raising the eligibility age is the only way to keep Social Security solvent is also misleading. Currently, the payroll tax is set up so it only taxes the first $110,100 of everyone’s income. A Congressional Research Service study from 2010 found eliminating the cap would keep the Social Security Trust Funds solvent for the next 75 years. The downside is this would raise taxes for anyone making more than $110,100. Still, the fact eliminating the cap would extend the trust funds’ solvency shows there are other options, and it shows Brown’s idea of increasing the cap has some fiscal merit.
However, Mandel would not be able to take Brown’s approach because it would mean raising taxes, which Mandel vowed to not do under any circumstance when he signed lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
For the final debate, Mandel and Brown followed similar paths as before and even recited some of the exact same lines. At this point, the candidates have painted clear contrasts. With three debates and a year of campaigning behind them, it’s now clear Brown is mostly the liberal, Democratic choice and Mandel is mostly the conservative, Republican choice.