We Kansans Is Officially Smart

The presumably fine folks at something called Safehome.org have ranked all the states according to their smartness, and our beloved Sunflower State came in a perfectly respectable seventh place. If we correctly remember what we learned about mathematics and civics in Kansas’ public schools that probably puts us in the top half of the 50 or so states, and we reckon that ain’t bad.
The Safehome.org folks based their rankings on a presumably scientific formula that takes into account the number of citizens with a bachelor’s degree, the high school graduation rate, the average score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and how many of the state’s students had least a passing score on the SAT’s various benchmarks, which strikes us as fair enough. Kansas might have fared better by some less hifalutin formula that takes common horse sense into account, but we suppose that is hard to objectively quantify, and given the snobbish disdain of the coastal elites we Kansans just know are laughing at us behind our backs with chips on the shoulder, seventh place seems almost comforting.
We were glad to see that New Jersey topped the list, as it’s the butt of far more jokes than Kansas will ever be. The state features some of America’s scariest ghettos, the ongoing storyline from “The Sopranos,” and frequently disgraced politicians, but much of it is quite nice, and every New Jerseyan or New Jerseyite or whatever you call them that we’ve ever met met have been very nice and very smart people. We’re not sure they’re smarter than Kansans, who spend less time in traffic on highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive, but we mean them no disrespect.
According to Safehome.org the second smartest state is Utah, which is not surprising, as those Mormons believe in all sorts of crazy things but are nonetheless very smart about many things. Massachusetts came in third and North Carolina fourth, which greatly annoyed us because we’ve known some very snobby and not all that smart people from both states. Montana finished fifth, and although we’e visited that very beautiful state we really don’t know enough Montanans or Montanians or what ever you call them to make a judgement about how smart they are relative to Kansans. Sixth place went to Virginia, a state that played an outsized role in American history since Washington and Jefferson, and we’ve been lucky to know many Virginians, as they like to be called, and although they’re a rather snooty bunch we have to admit we found several of them them smarter than the national average.
So seventh place ain’t bad, as we reckon it. We’re still ahead of another 43 or so states, according to our calculations, including all the neighbors we like to jibe about. Colorado and its legal marijuana came in 15th place. Missouri and its big league baseball teams came in 18th. Nebraska and whatever it has going for it was 20th. Oklahoma, a state we dearly love filled with some very smart family and friends we dearly love, came in 50th, just ahead of Idaho. The District of Columbia, which isn’t even a state so far as we can tell, came in 31st, which might account for any discrepancies you’ve noticed in our math.
Such populous and influential states as California and New York and California and Texas also lagged far behind Kansas in smartness, but as Kansans we are far too smart and refined to say “n’yah n’yah n’yah,” and will give due respect to our fellow Americans. The states have enough to quarrel about without some pseudoscientific rankings of their smartness, even if it does acknowledge how relatively smart us Kansans are, and it’s not the Kansas way to brag about such things..
Kansans have been smart enough to make vibrant cities and towns and far-flung farm houses out of this harsh and barren part of the country, and as imperfect as our state is we think it quite an accomplishment. We’ve travelled through 48 other states in our days, as well as the District of Columbia, and have found smart people and dumb people everywhere, and we hope they’ll prevail.
Our limited understanding of mathematics tell us that approximately half the people out there are below overage in smartness, though, which is a frightening thought given how often the brighter half of the population is wrong. For now the country seems to be doing a sufficient job of creating a great nation out of what was once a forbidding wilderness, even if neither of our political parties is currently helping out much with the chore, and we’ll hold out hope that the smartest people spread around the country somehow prevail.

— Bud Norman

Dueling Opinions on Obamacare

Two separate federal courts hearing two separate cases issued contradictory opinions Tuesday regarding the legality of subsidies being provided to people in states with federally-run health care exchanges, and Obamacare and all its embarrassments are back in the news. It’s all very complicated, as is the case with everything Obamacare, but well worth delving into if only for the comic relief.
The dispute in both cases arises from a few words among the 2,000-plus pages of the hilariously named Affordable Care Health Act, which state in unusually clear language that the subsidies shall be made to those who are eligible by their lack of income and had enrolled in exchanges “established by the State.” Only 14 states were willing to go along with the Obamacare boondoggle by establishing their own exchanges, so in the other 36 states the law as written would stick those under-funded suckers who signed up with the full cost of their over-priced plans, which would cause many of them to stop paying their premiums and pay the much smaller fine instead, thus leaving the insurers with a sicker and less profitable pool of customers, thereby raising the poor folks’  ire and everyone else’s premiums and further endangering the already unpopular law’s chances of political survival.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a two-to-one ruling in the Halbig v. Burwell case, insisted that the law says what it says and should be enforced accordingly. A few hours later the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in the King v. Burwell case that the law doesn’t really say what it says, and in no case should be enforced according to something so silly  as the law’s  plain text. The unfortunate Burwell, whoever he or she might be, seems headed to the Supreme Court for a final resolution.
Until then, it will be amusing to hear Obamacare’s dwindling number of defenders argue that it is the most brilliantly written legislation in American history while simultaneously arguing that it should not be read as written because of its absurdity. The oxymoronically named White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest helpfully explains that “You don’t need a fancy legal degree to understand that Congress intended for every eligible American to have access to tax credit that would lower their health care costs regardless of whether it was state officials or federal officials who are running the marketplace,” but it takes an especially fancy legal education to conclude that is not what Congress wrote into the law. Some argue that the language was quite deliberate, and intended to force recalcitrant Republican governors into starting state exchanges or face the wrath of their dependent class voters, although the estimated four to five million people being subsidized are hardly a formidable voting bloc when spread across 36 states, and far outnumbered by the voters being asked to pick up the tab for the subsidies, but if the Democrats now want to insist that it was just one of those typographical errors that are bound to happen when you’re hastily ramming an unpopular law down the public’s throat in the literal dead of night without a single vote from the opposition party they are free to do so. The D.C. Court of Appeals rejected the government’s argument that the plain text of the Affordable Care Act “renders other provisions of the ACA absurd,” which seems reasonable given that the absurdity standard would render most of the Obama administration’s actions illegal, and any Republicans who insist that the law should be enforced according to what it says are also free to do so.
We’re not such reckless gamblers that we would wager any amount of the final resolution of this matter, but we hopefully note that Professor Laurence Tribe of the impeccably fancy Harvard Law School has said “I wouldn’t bet the family farm on this coming out in a way that preserves Obamacare.” The good professor probably doesn’t have a family farm, and even if he does we can’t imagine him plowing its fields, so we take his comment as merely allegorical, but it’s heartening nonetheless. Even if the argument that a law shouldn’t be enforced as it is written just because it’s written that way does prevail, it will be nice to at last be done with the archaic pretense that the law has any meaning other than what the president wants it to mean.

— Bud Norman