Be Fair to Those Who Care

Salon has a review of the third day of the Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act, titled ‘A Brutal Day for Health Care.’

What I hear on the radio and read in the news as I work in the industry has me heartsick. Science, common sense and common decency say we cannot be a healthy or just nation when some of our hardest workers are one health problem away from bankruptcy. I see the expensive and devastating consequences of having to postpone basic preventive care. With a demographic bulge of older Americans entering Medicare, it seems insane to set them up to enter with dire needs when basic primary care could keep most of us healthy.

On the front lines of health care are millions of low-wage workers, many of whom lack health insurance themselves. They will be some of the first people who will benefit from strong health care reform. If you don’t think of a family, a worker, or an elder when you hear the word, ‘Medicaid’, you should. These are the people I serve. Why should those whose labor makes a public good possible be denied the benefits?

The federal spending issue turns on the expansion of Medicaid. Under the ACA, millions of the working poor – people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level – are eligible for Medicaid. From 2014 to 2016, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs. Then its share decreases, to 90 percent after 2020. Because the ACA also gives states assistance with their new administrative costs, overall state spending will actually be lowered.

Twenty-six states are claiming that this conditional spending unconstitutionally coerces them, because they cannot realistically forgo the money, and because if they refuse to expand their rolls, they might lose every cent of Medicaid money. But let’s be clear: This is not about the states wanting to conserve their own money. It is about the states refusing to spend federal money, to help people that they do not want to help. (Paul Clement, the attorney for the challenging states, declared that his argument would not change if the federal government permanently paid 100 percent of the costs.)

Last week at Brown I heard a legal expert, Sara Rosenbaum, say that this case is the most important since Brown v. Board of Education. Those times also were contentious and painful. This time I fear that we will land on the wrong side of history.

Maybe the Government Needs to Regulate CEO Pay

After adjusting for inflation, we pay CEOs today four times what they made in the 1970’s.  Pay-for-performance is the idea behind exorbitant CEO pay, but the fact is that CEO’s make big money whether their companies perform or not.  CEO pay is a problem that is affecting us all as we struggle to afford housing, health care and education in the middle class, while the 1% continues to hoard resources.  We need to reach some social consensus on what to do about this problem.  Otherwise, the stratification will continue.  From Time:  Are We Paying Our CEOs Enough: A New Survey From the Wall Street Journal and Hay Group Suggests Maybe Not | Business | TIME.com.

A fascinating post by a Chinese Herbalist about the “Hunza” indigenous people of Northern Pakistan, who eat the apricot or “Hunza” as a main staple of their diet.

Another Lethal Weapon

Cary Tennis on Salon.com has a reader looking for advice on what to do when mom won’t give up the keys…

Now the issue at hand is getting Mom to give up her car. She has macular degeneration with very impaired vision, but apparently not crossing the line into legal blindness. But there’s no doubt she’s a menace on the road, and she often forgets how to work her car, e.g., how to turn on the windshield wipers. She sees our pressing her to stop driving as yet another instance of our cruelty and desire to take away her freedom. She says she doesn’t care if she dies in a car accident, and when we point out that she might hurt others, she sniffs that that’s unlikely to happen.

Read the rest here.

I come up against this situation often. It’s not even only elderly– there are a lot of people whose physical condition makes driving a challenge. I work on finding alternative transportation, but there are not enough good options.

I talk to people who are much more able and flexible in their thinking than the lady in the Salon column, and we look at what’s out there for getting to errands and doctor’s appointments. Often it’s much more than inconvenience. Unless you live in Greater Providence, the bus service is thin and infrequent. RIDE picks up some of the slack, but it’s true that a car is more than a symbol of independence– it’s a means. Being car-less can be isolating.

As our state population ages, there’s increase on the demand side, which will eventually affect the supply side. Right now, we’re stalled out.

To get up to speed, we have to steer our General Assembly toward tuning up our public transit. Check out Save RIPTA for more.

Public transit– the life you save may be your own.

Mug Shot?

Someone mentioned that the photo of George Zimmerman– the only one shown in the news, doesn’t look like a portrait or candid shot. It looks like a mug shot. Perhaps from some prior brush with the law?

Lots of weird stuff on the net. George Zimmerman shot a teenager dead and his friends and neighbors are saying he’s not a racist. As if human nature is predictable and rational.

Mr. Green brings up the case of Cornell Young– shot and killed by his fellow Providence Police. There’s our rational selves, and under that, our non-rational selves. We act from unclear motives and rationalize after the fact.

I think it’s probable that George Zimmerman was in his non-rational space, when he pursued and murdered Trayvon Martin. He never should have been running around with a gun. That the police failed to even check if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs is beyond negligence.

But I won’t be surprised if Zimmerman sincerely pleads his innocence. He acted like a man afraid of his own shadow, and he won’t own up to that shadow now.

That does not excuse the crime. He deserves to serve a long sentence for robbing Trayvon Martin of his life and leaving his family bereaved.

Special-Needs Adults

So, how about this weather? There are so many complex factors in weather, and in climate, that you can’t predict a scorching July will follow cherry blossoms in March. That goes double for Rhode Island, where it can snow in May.

Friday, I walked to Kennedy Plaza to catch the #42 bus. They say you have to watch out when you’re downtown, and they’re right. At Burnside Park I was confronted by a Unitarian who gave me a pledge card. With my sore back I’m not up for running, so I just told her that I hope to make good on last year’s pledge by the end of this fiscal year. I’m streetwise like that.

I just watched HBO’s ‘Game Change’. In 2008 I saw Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech in real time, it’s fascinating to see it as drama. I feel a kinship with Sarah Palin. Really.

Like when the wonks are in a huddle and someone mentions that Sarah Palin speaks in tongues. That’s fact, she does. I know why. I’ve been there and done that. At Apponaug Pentecostal Church in the 70’s, everyone who was anyone spoke in tongues. Though actually I had learned tonguesspeak from the Catholic Charismatics– long story.

I know that Sarah Palin has a large and powerful base. In my prior job I worked with an office manager who looked at me innocently and said, “I really like Sarah Palin, don’t you?” I would not hurt this woman’s feelings for the world, she was the nicest person. I wondered what she was hearing that made her feel Sarah Palin would stick up for her. Sarah Palin is not stupid– in fact she is brilliant at connecting with the pain of some Americans who feel ignored and disparaged, and making them believe that she is on their side– without actually committing to take any material action on their behalf.

In the film, a woman holding a Down Syndrome child looks worshipfully at Palin, saying that finally someone speaks for her. This is a part of America that cannot be dismissed, and to make snap judgements or condescend is not only wrong, it’s stupid.

Parents and families of special-needs children are fortunate if, like the Palin family, they are wealthy. Most are not. Where it really matters is not at the political rally, but in the allocation of resources. Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of families who depend on such services as RIDE and SNAP are dry, depressing, uninspiring realities. Jesus said that when you give, don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. The Republican Party seems to have applied this to taking– talking about the children while cutting aid to the families who care for them.

Special-needs children, gods willing, grow up. Their needs change, sometimes increase. Parents grow old, money runs out. We can take care of our own, if ‘we’ includes all of us. We can provide not only material care, but inclusion.

I once worked in a building that was considered rather tough. At one time the VNA would not go into it without an escort. More than one mother with a special-needs child lived there, including the aging mother of a woman I’ll call ‘Tonie’.

Tonie was sweet-natured, energetic, outgoing and childlike. She hugged everyone. Her mental handicap was not apparent unless you talked with her. Wariness did not seem to be part of her nature. She was slim, boyish and nice looking. Her mother protected her always, until she had a heart attack.

While her mother was in the hospital, Tonie had to spend a long weekend on her own. We all worried. Did she know how to cook without setting her apartment on fire? Would she know to stay away from some of the known predatory people, inside and outside her building?

Tonie had more strength, I think, than we gave her credit for. She did okay, and I see her from time to time. She was not the only vulnerable person in that building who seemed to be protected by an unspoken code of honor. There were some tiny elderly ladies and gentlemen who lived there as long as age allowed. There were people whose illness caused them to be unpleasant and provocative, who were understood as impaired and left alone.

This rambling post is just to mention something that is obvious but often overlooked. Margaret Thatcher supposedly said that there’s no such thing as society– only individuals. We do not, however, live entirely in a world of strife and competition. We want someone to speak for special-needs children. Less often does anyone speak for their needs when they become adults.

We can take care of our own– all Americans. We are a great and wealthy nation. Special-needs children, like all children, are a lifetime commitment and beyond. They grow up, parents age, families reach the limit of their resources. That’s where community, and government aided by good laws, share the responsibility.

We are now at a point where we will decide whether the life-saving resource of medical care will be a public good, or a private privilege.

The future of Mary Beck, Trig Palin, Bella Santorum and all the children of ordinary citizens will be profoundly affected by what we decide.

Words Fail

 

UPDATE:  As outrage grows, Hoodies are being worn as a way to express grief and horror about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  From a petition to the Attorney General of Florida:

“George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin, an African American teenager, reveals a history of racism in Sanford, FL that has stubbornly refused to die. Weeks after the shooting, the Sanford police department is slow to release details of the shooting and, more surprisingly, has not arrested George Zimmerman, a man who has a history of violence. We urge you to sign this petition to protect private citizens from gun violence and inept law enforcement. Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi must step in and provide justice for Trayvon Martin, his family, and the community.” Click here to add your name:http://signon.org/sign/justice-for-trayvon-martin?source=s.fwd&r_by=3540007

Looking at pictures of that beautiful young man whose life was ended with a bullet fills me with grief. I’ll recommend you to this post on Feministe by SHARKFU…

When I heard about the murder of Trayvon Martin I felt like everything just stopped for a moment.

I’m talking about a real halt for a serious moment…a stretching out of time through which everything ached bone deep.

There is still much to learn about the murder of Trayvon Martin, but what we know now is hauntingly close to the nightmare that has been my companion for as long as I can remember.

That nightmare that makes the women in my family advise any and all young black people about to leave the house on how to act…what to do if the police harass or a security guard follows…how to respond if confronted for driving while black or walking while black or shopping while black or having fun while black or going to school while black or seeking medical treatment while black or voting while black or dating while black or for just being black.

The nightmare that is followed by the reality that those cautions don’t matter…that this isn’t about “earning it” or “deserving it” or “asking for it”.

Read the rest here. SHARKFU’S post echoes the opinions of many concerned people, and of my family, who raise sons of all colors and send them into the world with a prayer for their safety.