Guest column

Illuminating laugh lines are so appreciated


So called "laugh lines" are embodied in many articles, designed to catch your attention or make a point. One of the better recent ones was uttered in all seriousness, then quoted in our daily paper, by a spokesman for Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, who along with several other legislators, had been accused of not voting increased taxes on oil and gas drillers because of campaign contributions made to them by that industry.

The spokesman said, "Political donations have never driven policy decisions in the Senate. It never happened before and it's not going to happen now."

Last year oil and gas interests gave $830,000 to Republican legislative campaigns, plus another $242,000 so far this year (in this well gerrymandered state, Democrats do not count, so remain relatively poverty stricken).

Safe districts are the main reason Republicans continue to win state legislature seats, while national elections, where every vote counts for those allowed to vote, are much more balanced and lately in Ohio, have tended to favor Democrats.

Full credit for this illuminating oil-gas lobby spending report goes to The Columbus Dispatch.

I'm almost revising my opinion of Gov. Kasich as he struggles to get the Medicaid supplement from Obamacare accepted, somewhat plaintively asking the General Assembly, and us, to not consider welfare recipients as lazy or unwilling to work, especially when employment cannot be found.

Unfortunately the opinions of the legislature and a majority of Ohio voters do not always agree (see above). We did not see needed money for education and local government in this biennial budget, considering the drastic cuts of the last biennium.

Educational funding is the very last thing that should be cut, not an automatic first, though in this budget the charter school tie-in needs to be carefully observed, as another example of political contributions acquiring undue influence. Needed and necessary changes are being held up statewide and nationally by the almost instinctive blind opposition of a Republican party unable to understand what being conservative really means.

There's little question Obamacare needs more flexibility, beginning by allowing no exemptions for paying a fine, plus special provisions for part-time workers. In passing this much needed act, in the only country in the Western world not offering some version of universal health care, a golden chance was missed to extend Medicare coverage to younger populations, which has both lower administration and overhead costs, meanwhile eliminating employer-based insurance coverage.

I think our primary problem in the U.S. is that we offer excellent health care to two-thirds of the population, while the other one-third, many if not most of whom have no health insurance do not fare so well, many winding up in very expensive and inefficient emergency room care. Obamacare is designed to correct that, but universal coverage will not be fiscally possible until all are covered and helping pay for it.

Similar tactics are utilized by the Roman Catholic bureaucracy, in opposition to needed changes, ignoring the great changes that have already taken place, a few beginning with the papacy of John Paul in the 1960s.

This slow movement toward needed change or reversal provides an excellent argument for lowering the age to at least 70 for cardinals allowed to vote in a papal election, helping the desires of both younger and older priesthood who desperately want change, as expressed in several of the more liberal publications of the church (there are a few), one of which recently reprinted the obituary of Father Andrew Greeley from The Economist.

To paraphrase several excerpts: He was a thorn in the side of the hierarchy, a lifelong crusader against rigid canon lawyers and "mitered bird brains ... who tried to turn his beloved Church into a fortress against the modern world, rather than a community of grace and celebration."

Two Chicago bishops were so unhappy with the priest who dared make millions of dollars from writing romance novels that they turned down the gifting of many of those millions, indeed turned down his impeccably drawn surveys of college students, priests, adults and ethnic groups, which they had commissioned, because they showed a revolution in the thinking of those groups about their church, which had dramatically changed in a 30-year period. He did all this out of deep love for his church, whose schools he always defended, and whose rituals he always observed.

Reach guest columnist Bill McNutt at