“Expand Medicaid To Improve Healthcare Outcomes”; Like the Dew (progressive journal); Jack Bernard and Dr.Doug Skelton; 5-23-19

FAILURE TO EXPAND OBAMACARE HAS BEEN KILLING US

When compared to the rest of the USA, the state of Georgia is not very healthy (and neither is the rest of the South). We can say this based on specific national health data collected and analyzed by the University of Wisconsin for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project entitled “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps.”

For example, premature deaths before the age of 75 for the US as a whole are 6,700/100,000 residents. For Georgia, the figure is 7,500. In fact, the worst rated Georgia county is 16,200/100,000 … nearly triple the national average.

photo of a hypodermic needle filled with the color of money withdrawing from a vile of Medicaid expansion wrapped filled with moneyOther stats show a similar trend, including those using perceptions of health by our citizens. Georgians self-reported poor/fair health at a much higher rate than Americans in general, 19% to 16%. Obviously, one reason for this situation is that Georgia has a rate of medically uninsured (under 65) that is much high than the national average, 16% vs. 11%. This dismal situation is in large part due to the failure of Georgia’s past Governor and legislature to expand Medicaid, although the Feds pick up 90% of the bill.

Looking at Bibb County, Georgia (Macon is the county seat and the home of one of the authors of this story) as an example, we find that the health situation is even worse than the rest of the state. It is ranked 143 out of 159 on statistical health outcomes and 98 on general health factors. Here are some examples in Bibb County of specific measures.

  • Premature deaths: 11,000/100,000 versus 7,500/100,000 for the state.
  • Low birth weight rate: 13% versus 10% for Georgia (and 6% for top performing USA counties).
  • STD rates (as indicated by chlamydia): 800/100,000 versus 570 statewide.

The bottom line is that Georgia is a less healthy state versus the nation … and Bibb is even more unhealthy. Therefore, it can be inferred that the provision of health insurance to more residents will have an even greater impact on Bibb citizens versus the state as a whole.

As opposed to what opponents will tell you, this is not insurance for those who choose not to work. The vast majority of those who would be covered are the working poor, often our friends, neighbors and relatives.

The respected group Georgians for a Healthy Future states that if Medicaid were expanded, an additional 50,000 jobs would be created, mostly private sector. Bibb’s local economy could use the shot in the arm.

The Macon Medical Center and other local hospitals which serve a disproportionate number of medically uninsured would also cut their bad debt, removing one the key factors for medical price inflation. Also, many of Georgia’s public hospitals are asking for increased public subsidies paid for from local taxes; these can be reduced with lower bad debt.

Which once again leads us to the basic question of why did then Governor Deal and our Legislature ignored the 90% matching funds for Medicaid expansion? Will the new Governor, Kemp, also a conservative, truly expand Medicaid under the waiver he has asked for?

We understand that there is great divisiveness within our nation and our state. But, per survey research, we are the most religious democracy in the world and, objectively, Georgia itself is a very religious state within a very religious nation.

As such, can’t we all agree to do what most other states (and democratic nations) have already done and take of our working poor? Please, take time today to tell that to the Governor’s office, your local State Representative and State Senator.

More regulation needed at animal shelters; LaGrange Daily News; 5-21-19

 

 

Some people like to use the term euthanasia for terminating the life of an unwanted former pet. I don’t…I call it what it is: killing an abandoned or lost pet.

Some counties are “no kill”, with adoptions as their focus. This is humane…and very costly for counties with limited budgets. Therefore, most Georgia counties have a policy that after a certain period of time, animals will be killed and cremated.

Unfortunately, most likely by design, no state agency keeps up with the number of pets killed in Georgia by County run Animal Control Departments (as opposed to Humane Society shelters, which do not have a “kill’’ policy) each year… although they should. Instead, because the public outrage would be significant if the numbers were compiled and released statewide, each county supposedly keeps this data.

However, based on my experience as a County Commissioner in a rural Georgia County near Atlanta, the accuracy of these numbers is questionable. At least one head of our Animal Control Center just told us what we wanted to hear, not the facts.

But County Commissioners are also at fault. Centers are often (always?) understaffed. Three of our five Commissioners refused to adequately staff our center. All said they were animal lovers but that the County could not afford the expense and “volunteers” should help out. So, the animals were left on their own a significant part of the time, especially on weekends. After all, the animals couldn’t write a letter of complaint, now could they?

Theoretically, the Ga. Dept of Agriculture regulates these shelters. But rather than keeping up with the number of cats and dogs killed, GDOA has a listing of slots in centers by county. Simple to compile and administer…and purposefully meaningless.

So, what should be done about this deplorable situation? For starters, our new Governor should appoint a committee made up of prominent citizens, including politicians on both sides of the isle, to recommend specific ways to reduce the deplorable killing of our dogs and cats. Possible remedies would include: a. state funding for animal shelters; b. greater regulation by GDOA in general; c. mandated reports to GDOA regarding the number of animals in each shelter and the number put down annually; d. identifying shelter best practices, including mandates such as shelters must be manned at all times;and e. state laws regarding neutering/spaying.

If you care about animals, and most Georgians do, check out how your county handles animal control. And, push your state Rep. and Senator to approve the creation of the above Committee.

“So many questions remain over single-payer approach”; Modern Healthcare; 5-21-19

The Congressional Budget Office’s report on single-payer healthcare (“CBO warns of complexities, disruption of a single-payer system”) raises some interesting questions. The nonpartisan, impartial CBO is one of the most respected government agencies. Its report analyzed cost/financing, administration, benefits provided and eligibility. And as the report clearly indicates, there is no commonly accepted one-size-fits-all plan used in other nations.

However, the CBO report may do more to confuse the situation than to clarify it. For example, the CBO reviewed who employs those providing care (government or private employment) and if hospitals are owned by the government or private sources. Frankly, a system like the British National Health Service, which employs its physicians and owns its hospitals, isn’t being seriously suggested by single-payer advocates.

Having been heavily involved with this topic for over 10 years, single-payer supporters (including myself) are clearly visualizing expansion of our existing Medicare program, with modifications.

Where there are differences, they relate to: How quickly should the new program be implemented? Should it cover noncitizens? Should all physical and mental health services be covered, including long-term care? Should vision and hearing be covered? Should there be co-pays? How quickly should Medicare Advantage be phased out? Should private insurance play any role? And the key financial question: How should we move current private expenditures by citizens and corporations into the public sector to defray the cost of the new system?

 

Gun Violence: Senator Graham is Right; Like the Dew; 5-21-19

“Let’s come up with solutions that are bipartisan, propose something Mr. President and I think Republicans have an obligation to work with Democrats to make it law if we can”- Senator Lindsey Graham (SC).

“I’ve been committed to protecting the Second Amendment rights of Americans since I was elected. I will continue to defend our constitutional rights”- Senator Burr.

There is a real difference in the way that South Carolina Senator Graham and North Carolina Senator Burr, both Southern conservatives with whom I have major policy disagreements, have approached gun violence. Senator Graham wants to do something positive through legislation that will lower gun deaths; Burr clearly does not.

Senator Burr takes gun rights to an extreme never intended by the founders. Senators like Burr will not pass new laws to protect the rights of children to be free from gun violence because they are cowards. Burr is in effect on the NRA payroll, having accepted over $7 million… and that is the only reason he refuses to see the truth.

After every gun massacre, Burr and colleagues like fellow N.C. Senator Tillis (who accepted over $4 million in NRA funds) usually follow up a statement similar to this: “Please keep the victims, their families, first responders and the community in your thoughts and prayers” (Tillis, 2-14-18).Yes, Senator, we all do that… to no avail.

Every time we have a mass shooting you and others like you in Congress say we need to wait until we “know the facts” and shouldn’t “jump to conclusions” (Senator Rubio). Then, when the news shifts to a different news cycle, you go back to business advocating for an unneeded wall and other right-wing ideological priorities… and forget all about gun control until the next massacre when you once again say there is nothing to be done with these mentally ill shooters except pray.

Well, I am praying, too. I am praying every day that immoral men like Tillis and Burr will finally come to their senses and see that they have a direct responsibility to prevent gun violence, especially against our innocent children. But, my prayers have not been answered.

In Charleston, S.C. and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, our sisters and brothers were praying when they were shot down. The same with Poway, Pittsburg and many other places.

Their prayers were not answered either. Praying didn’t solve the problem. With gun violence, it never does, as the statistics prove.

God gave us a brain to think (and vote); that actually does help. So, what can we as a nation do? Here are a few common-sense approaches:

  • Adopt the official AMA position that firearm violence is a major public health issue and fund studies by the CDC to examine both causes and solutions (note; the head of the CDC told me a few weeks ago at an Atlanta public health meeting  that this is the reason they do not do so).
  • Establish a bi-partisan Congressional Committee to propose specific legislation (within a set time frame) to lessen firearm violence.
  • Pass a federal gun law similar to the one mandating that states raise the age to purchase liquor to 21 or lose federal funds.
  • Prohibit private ownership of bumper stocks and assault hand guns and rifles like the AR 15, the semi-automatic equivalent of the M 16 used by our military.
  • Restrict high capacity magazine use to only the police and military.
  • Close the gun show loop hole which lets anyone buy a gun, including criminals and crazies.
  • Prohibit anyone on various law enforcement “watch lists” from buying firearms.
  • Establish a more comprehensive federal data base and mandate by law that it be used, with severe penalties if it is not.
  • Restrict all use or purchase of guns by anyone having had mental health diagnosis or treatment within 5 years.
  • Mandate that mental health professionals submit data to the data base in a more effective manner than they do now.
  • Increase funding for community mental health programs addressing domestic violence.
  • Establish substantial taxes on ammunition, as we do with cigarettes, another public health hazard.

The reader may not agree with every single one of these recommendations, especially if you are in the GOP and a gun owner. That is not the point, although surveys have shown most Americans do believe in enacting a number of these recommendations.

Senator Graham is at least willing to work on legislation to lower the number of gun tragedies this nation experiences versus other democracies.  The fact is that there are many things that can be done to potentially lessen the massacres and gun violence in general. At least some of them, if not all, will work to reduce some firearm deaths in some cases. Trying each one and failing with a few is much better than not trying any of them at all, the current GOP position.

The bottom line for all of us is that reducing violence is not a technical problem, as Senator Rubio and others on the NRA payroll would have you believe. It is a political one.

Voters need to prioritize firearm control in their voting, the same way NRA members do. For my part, I hereby pledge that I will never vote for any politician who: a) accepts NRA money; b) incorrectly says that nothing at all can be done to restrict gun possession due to the second amendment. Will you, the reader, do the same?

“Good economy? Not for all recent college graduates.”; Fayette News; 5-16-19 and the Augusta Chronicle; 5-18-19

The rising costs of higher education coupled with the stress of paying student loans are putting increasing pressure on students.” – Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson

The one thing that President Trump constantly emphasizes as a success of his administration is the economy. However, the economy is not good for everyone, even seniors in the stock market. The S&P fell 6.2 percent last year, something Trump never mentions because it was the worst showing in a decade (CNBC,12-31-18).
The ones who arguably may have it the worst are recent college grads in certain fields of study, as described below. Per the Project on Student Debt (2017), 68 percent of US grads have student debt, averaging over $30,000 per grad nationally, as opposed to $29,000 for the state of Georgia as a whole (57 percent of grads with debt). One Georgia private school (Savannah College of Art and Design) even reached close to $40,000 debt per grad.
The Georgia state average is somewhat higher than the $23,400 figure for the 44 percent of UGA grads with debt.
Total student debt is $1.4 trillion nationally (credit.com, 4-21-17). That’s trillion, not billion. Soaring college costs are detailed in an 8-24-18 AJC article that I co-wrote which included this statement:“At public, four-year schools, tuition and fees cost about $9,139 this year. In the 1971 school year, they added up to less than $500 in current dollars.” (CNBC, 6-16-15)
Plus, it is getting hard to find a job unless you are in IT, engineering, healthcare, accounting ,and so forth. (A list of these 25 best jobs and their average pay can be found in US News and World Report ,1-8-19)
Further, many are getting out of school with debts while starting pay is stagnant for certain areas of study. In fact, 40 percent of college grads take first jobs in fields (maintenance, food prep, farming, etc.) that do not require college degree at all, earning $10,000 less per year than other recent grads (CNBC, 6-26-18).
According to a recent piece from Kiplinger (1-29-19) here are the worst fields for new grads based on salary, job satisfaction, and career growth:
Photography
Art
Radio & Television
Anthropology
Graphic Design
Paralegal Studies
Art History
Music
Exercise Science
Religious Studies

The above is not meant to imply that getting a college degree is not cost-beneficial. Only 2.8 percent of college grads are unemployed, versus 8 percent for high school dropouts (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3-16). Plus, in general a college grad makes 84 percent more than someone who has never gone to college (LA Times, 8-5-11).
But many college students may still be encouraged by parents and others to “go with your passion” versus where you can make money when you graduate. Put simply, there may be downsides if you choose to follow your passion versus the dollar bill. However, if you do follow your passion, try to figure out where you are headed long-term and be flexible as the example below illustrates.
My brother, a guitarist with a fine arts degree from UGA, tried the acting world in LA but did not get as far ahead as he desired. However, he is a naturally gifted businessman and started a music LLC (i.e. a business).
He now fronts and books ethnic music bands all over Southern California, playing for some of the biggest names in Hollywood, as well as corporations. He makes very good money and lives in an expensive home.
So, both following your passion and making a good living can be accomplished simultaneously. But it certainly isn’t as easy in this economy as some people imply. Know what you are getting into, rather than being disappointed and frustrated.

What Does Exercise Religion Really Mean?”; Like the Dew (progressive journal); May 17, 2019

DEPENDS ON THE MEANING OF NO

“I haven’t made a formal announcement about the Senate race, but I am interested about the issues,” – Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (link)

I’m concerned that Jeff Sessions is getting back into politics for a number of reasons, one of which is separation of church and state. Our Constitution, First Amendment, reads:“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

Many modern-day conservatives, like Attorney General Sessions, only acknowledge the “free exercise” part of the above. As AG, Sessions proposed the formation of a “religious liberty” task force to enforce Session’s skewed interpretation of the constitution: “we have not only the freedom to worship, but the right to exercise our faith.

So, is it really religious liberty that is the true focus of the task force? Or, would the group be better named the “bigotry using religion as an excuse” task force? Isn’t that what Sessions means by his unique definition of “exercise”?

Usually, the “free exercise” misinterpretation comes with the implication that we are a “Christian nation”. Of course, there is absolutely no basis for this wrongheaded assumption. But there are consequences of using this misinterpretation as the basis for public policy decisions.

Under Sessions’ interpretation, clearly designed to promote his ideas as to the role of religion in our lives, there is unrestricted liberty to infringe on others “unalienable rights.” If Sessions had his way, for example, all of these actions would be legal due to the perpetrator citing his personal religious tenets:

  • a middle class African-American couple is refused service at a restaurant by a member of the Christian Identity Church;
  • an elderly Jewish couple is refused a room by a motel owner, a member of the Radical Traditional Catholicism sect;
  • a Hindu graduate student is refused entrance to a master’s degree program at a “Christian” college;
  • an Egyptian-American Islamic studies professor is told that an ultra-orthodox Jewish surgeon does not accept Muslim patients; and
  • a wealthy married gay couple are in a serious auto accident, but the EMS worker is a fundamentalist Kingdom Identity Ministries member who refuses to treat them.

It can’t happen here? It can and will if Sessions’ efforts succeed.

Sessions clearly does not understand how this nation was formed during the “Age of Enlightenment.” Our Founding Fathers were very aware of the problems brought about In Europe by centuries of bloody religious conflict. They obviously wanted to avoid that divisiveness here in the New World, a place where Europeans came to practice their religions freely. Therefore, they wanted a wall separating religion and government. That wall is violated when any government employee, including a former politician like Sessions, advocates directly or indirectly for religion.

The founders were Renaissance men who often did not believe in God and/or the Trinity, at least not as many current day evangelicals like Sessions do. For example, in 1787 Jefferson wrote:

  • “Question with boldness even the existence of a god.” (link)

And, in Notes on the State of Virginia:

  • “But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god.” (link)

And, in a letter to John Adams:

  • “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” (link)
  • Adams, a Unitarian, also did not believe in the Trinity, stating: “The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” (link)
  • And: “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” (link)

Ben Franklin wrote:

  • “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches”; (link)
  • “The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason”; (link)
  • “I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies.”; (link)
  • “To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.” (link)

And, George Washington instructed his agent when hiring people to build Mount Vernon:

  • “If they are good workmen, they may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans [Mohammedans/Muslims], Jews, or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists.” (link)

Somehow, I cannot see Sessions agreeing with any of those statements by our Founding Fathers. Regardless, Sessions role is not to radically reinterpret our Constitution. As a Conservative, he should know that. Obviously, he does not, given the creation of his task force which in theory will “protect” religion… but in reality, will strongly promote it.

Alabama residents need to think twice about putting him back into Congress.

“Misleading Henry taxpayers”; Henry County Times; 5-15-19

For the first two weeks of April, taxpayers in Henry County were busy doing their taxes. Many are angry that the promised cornucopia of tax benefits has not positively affected them. And, they should be  – given what was promised by Congressman Ferguson and his ilk.

  Rep. Ferguson indicated (4-14-19) that the GOP “Tax Cut for the Wealthy Act” (officially mistitled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, TCJA) passed in Dec. 2017, was a blessing for: “Americans across the economic spectrum.” He was right about it being transformative, but wrong about beneficiaries, who are primarily the wealthy and big corporations.

Rep. Ferguson also writes about: “pro-growth policies are making it possible for Americans to succeed.” Sir, you are no conservative; stop pretending. You and your GOP colleagues controlling Congress managed to cut taxes while significantly increasing spending (especially military).

As any Accounting 101 student can tell you, if you cut revenue and increase expenses, you create debt. That’s not conservative, that’s irresponsible! Americans are only “succeeding” in passing debt along to their children.

And, that is exactly what you have done. Our annual deficit has gone up significantly in recent years under a supposedly conservative Republican Congress and is projected to reach $984 billion by the end of this year, over double the $438 billion figure in 2015 under Obama. Since the TCJA will directly increase our national deficit by nearly $2 trillion over the next ten years (Tax Policy Center, 12-18), more than one such law would bankrupt the nation.

You and your GOP colleagues stated that the TCJA would create higher wages, empowering the middle class. Again, unless you live in a neighborhood of millionaires, that is not accurate. Wealthy taxpayers with incomes in the top 1% got an average annual tax cut of 3.4%, $51,000. Those with incomes of less than $25,000 only got $60, less than one half of 1%. Middle income families only received a tax cut of $900, 1.6%.

Rep. Ferguson believes small business would be helped by the TCJA with businesses: “passing their tax reform savings along to workers.” That just didn’t happen, and Ferguson provides no facts to back up his assertion.

I suppose he was pleased because the original Act as approved by the GOP House would eliminate the death tax on small business owners. However, prior to the TCJA, the estate tax only affected very wealthy business owners who left estates of more than $5,490,000 … and double that for a couple. The final TCJA as signed by Trump gives a full exemption of $22,360,000 for a couple … not exactly the small businessman you were led to believe would benefit. The TCJA is set up to help doctors, lawyers and business chiefs … not the little guy with a landscaping business.

As for corporations, the TCJA reduced the corporate rate from 35% to 21%, the lowest since 1939. Supposedly, a large proportion of the additional profits were going to rank and file employees, but in most cases that did not happen. Since the passage of TCJA, there have been a record number of mergers. Corporations are increasing dividends to shareholders (wealthier Americans) and doing stock buy backs, none of which help the hourly worker.

The TCJA was just a continuation of “voo doo economics” to use Bush 41’s term. Supply side economics (Reaganomics) has been thoroughly discredited. Tax cuts in the long run don’t pay for themselves, as any decent economist will tell you.

When Reagan tried it, he ended up raising taxes multiple times to offset his earlier cuts. Bush 41 raised taxes further to attempt to balance an out of whack budget deficit caused by the Reagan tax cuts.

As Ha-Joon Chang, economist and author, stated “Once you realize that trickle-down economics does not work, you will see the excessive tax cuts for the rich as what they are – a simple upward redistribution of income, rather than a way to make all of us richer.”   You would have thought that Ferguson and the GOP would have learned, but obviously they did not. What ever happened to the fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party?