Anti-government saboteurs scheme against facility

When politicians are forced to walk back from a comment, action or position that meets with public opposition – such as when some Houghton County Board members made a move on the operation of the Medical Care Facility – they tend to downplay the incident and revise the record.

So let’s keep the record straight: Anti-government County Board members wanted to privatize the facility, a favorite tactic of conservative ideologues, which sounds good in theory but rarely works for the overall public good in practice. The only winners are private companies, which get taxpayer-funded capital infrastructure dropped in their lap with little or no investment, and the saboteur politicians who deal away the public operation.

Government’s responsibilities and roles are not the same as business’, which is something big-business, less-government zealots either can’t fathom or refuse to accept. One of the many roles government must play in a capitalist system is business and commerce regulation. Why? Because in their obsession to make money, many of them cheat. Exhibit A: the Big Short banking scandal of 2008. Businesses like banks need to be regulated, and that’s what government does. Government needs to be monitored by agents of the people, and that’s what the press does.

In the current version of the Medical Care Facility issue, which not-so-coincidentally was up for a millage renewal and came within days of the deadline for putting it to voter referendum, privatizing the operation was merely just a thought, a passing fancy, not really a serious plan.

Now the issue is the operation’s large reserve fund, estimated at $20-22 million, which would have become available had the facility been privatized, because revenue from the licensing agreement would have replaced the millage, and generally accepted accounting principles call for a reserve fund of only 25 percent of an operation’s revenue, which would be about $5 million for the Medical Care facility.

Although the board could have been more forthcoming about it, it deserves praise for finally pointing out the super-sized reserve fund, which could do taxpayers more good than just sitting in a bank: the population is aging, there will be more need for more senior care in the future. The current jail facility is in deplorable condition. Houghton County has one of the worst recycling rates in the country. Taxpayers would always welcome some relief.

There is no shortage of ideas for what to do with the money. The County Board can take credit for discovering that cache of cash. However, it could have been more up-front about it and saved residents and staff of the Medical Care Facility some unnecessary grief.

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial