Are We a Civilized Society?

I am outraged by the President and the GOP “leadership.”  The President says he’ll “…just let Obamacare fail,” and that he and the Republicans “won’t own it.”

I’ve got news for the President: He and the Republicans darn sure do “own it”- they COULD improve the ACA if they weren’t so hell-bent on destroying anything that has Obama’s name on it. Their hatred of that legacy is so strong, they’re willing to let millions suffer. I’m betting in the coming months the hateful House will do all they can to make it fail -- death by a thousand cuts.

It doesn’t seem to bother them that these are real people. The mantra of the GOP is they are “unworthy,” people who made “bad decisions.” Don’t they care how draconian cuts will harm families? Cutting safety nets, while moving tax breaks to the rich, doesn’t save money, it just pushes it down to the local level. It makes emergency care the route of choice for those with no other option. Everyone who retains insurance pays in the end anyway, but we pay more in higher premiums since the cost of emergency care is so much more than preventative care. Meanwhile tens of millions suffer. Suffering is not an American value as I recall.

I don’t like wasting money. I don’t like being in debt any more than you do, but the GOP is a broken record on the same old course of idiotic “trickle-down economics.” The truth is, a rich person never “created” a job. You don’t hire more people just because you’ve got more money, you hire them when the demand is greater for your product. So, what’s one way to create more demand? How about putting more money in the pockets of consumers? How about providing affordable healthcare so people have more money to spend? Demand drives jobs, not tax cuts.

The “Freedom Caucus” doesn’t think proposed budget cuts go far enough- their chair, Rep. Mark Meadows calls the $203 billion in cuts a “pittance.” What freedom are they talking about? I’ll tell you what:  “freedom” from regulations and taxes. Regulations that keep us safe, and taxes that are, as Oliver Wendall Homes, Jr. said "the price we pay for living in a civilized society." THAT is what they want "freedeom from."

I’ll bet Meadows doesn’t have a sick child whose medication costs $850 a month like the mom we heard from at Congressman Doggett’s Medicaid Town Hall. Those parents have great insurance, but it’s not enough. Medicaid is their safety net. It literally is, life or death for many Americans and many Texans out there. My opponent has voted in lock step with the Freedom Caucus.  Thanks, Roger. 

"Freedom from regulations." The caucus wants to gut Dodd-Frank financial protections in place to prevent another financial melt-down like we saw the last time Republicans had the White House.  We all know people who lost their retirement savings in 2008.  Who wants that to happen again?  Republican leadership, apparently.  Adam Smith was the father of economics, but also a Presbyterian pastor.  He said, “greed is normal,” but he expected, “…individuals to set limits on their own self-interest through prudence, justice, and benevolence. The goal of self-love is to provide life’s necessities, not its luxuries, and not to take advantage of other citizens.” “Society,” wrote Smith, “cannot exist among those who are at all times ready to hurt and injure one another.”** Here, here.

I know it seems like outrage is dead.  But please find your spark.  Federal and State governments are sinking to lower depths every day. I know it can wear you out, but we’ve got to stay strong. We have to contact Congress, the Senate, and state legislators.  Tell them, “This is not normal. This cannot stand.”


Posted on 19 Jul 2017, 11:07 - Category: Healthcare

Healthcare or Wealthcare? A call to action

Make no mistake about it, the Republican plan to “repeal and replace” is about two things:  Erasing President Obama’s legacy and changing the heart and soul of what it means to be American. Our Founders were intent on promoting a sense of selfless service and the “general welfare,” laying that responsibility on Congress in Article 1 of the Constitution. 

Today’s Republicans have lost that sense of caring for the citizenry.  They don’t understand that even middle class folks may work more than one job, just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. They don’t understand that for many, the choice to buy health insurance is life-changing. It diverts resources from other necessities of life, like rent, utilities, and food.

Medicaid helps the most vulnerable: children, elderly people, and disabled people. For the states wise enough to have expanded Medicaid, it also covers many of working age whose jobs don’t provide health insurance.  Kellyanne Conway is a key advisor to the President.  She doesn’t even get it saying, “People on Medicaid who will lose coverage under the Republican plan to repeal Obamacare could find jobs that provide health insurance.”  Wrong.  The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 59% of working-age adults who are on Medicaid, are in jobs that don’t provide insurance. Both the House and the Senate would repeal the requirement for businesses with more than 50 employees, to provide health insurance for their employees. Millions of Americans will lose out.  So, no Kellyanne, that isn’t the answer.

Everyone agrees there are aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)  that need attention. Let’s improve it.  Republican proposals help no one but the very wealthy, who get a huge tax cut while disadvantaged people lose healthcare coverage sending them back to repeat Emergency Room visits, their fallback.  They can’t pay.  Hospitals pass the costs on to taxpayers and those with insurance by upping the cost of all services.  We all pay eventually in higher premiums and higher municipal taxes, so why not pay a little more on the front end, rather than a lot on the back end?

We already pay more than three times what other countries pay for healthcare and get poorer outcomes.  One measure is life expectancy, 81.4 years in the United Kingdom (with universal healthcare) against 78.8 in the US. There are countless other measures that show the negative impacts of being the only industrialized nation that does not provide healthcare for its people.

To the core of my soul, I believe decent healthcare is a human right. Help me to make that cultural change in your Congress. 

Make your opinion known.  Visit your Senators' or Representative’s local office, or call them. Say you won’t stand for this Wealthcare bill.  Any bill passed by the Senate will then reach a compromise with the House bill in committee, and that will be a disaster that the President will then sign into law.  The time to act will have passed. Our best bet is to end any chance for a Senate bill to pass, sending them back to the drawing board to improve the ACA.

In short, we’ve got work to do, and we can do it! Every day, when you wake up, think
“What can I do today to make this a better day than yesterday?” Then do it!


Posted on 08 Jul 2017, 01:11 - Category: Healthcare

When Profit takes Precedence over People, Bad Things are Liable to Happen

Thinking of the high-rise fire in London, I turned away for a minute from the horror of it, to think about how it is a “perfect” example of why privatization is often not in the public interest. I heard on NPR that the responsibility for establishing fire precautions for that building were transferred from public fire professionals to the building’s owner. Let’s see, public professionals protect the public welfare, private owners protect profit. What could possibly go wrong? Now we know. There was a recent renovation, but no sprinklers were installed, some fire alarms didn’t work, there was only one staircase to serve 24 stories of apartments.  And apparently, new visually-appealing cladding on the exterior accelerated the fire by turning the structure into a chimney. Imagine being so desperate to save your children that you think they have a better chance to live if you throw them out the window 7 or more stories from the ground? This building was a perfect storm of things that never should have been allowed, but were.

What can possibly go wrong in Texas when we take vulnerable children from their abusive and/or neglectful homes and instead of finding stable foster families as the first priority, we hand them over to religious organizations that may not accept a child’s sexual orientation or identity.  We put children into homes where they’re punished for being who they were born to be? How many children will have to die or be horribly abused until our State “leaders” recognize that there are some things that government does best?

Government can’t, and shouldn’t try to do everything, but where health and safety are concerned, those things should never be privatized. When profit takes precedence over people, people get hurt, or worse, die. This is one reason I believe that Medicare For All is the best and simplest way to manage healthcare in the US. Whether someone gets health care or not shouldn’t depend on an insurance company’s bottom line.  We shouldn’t deny care to the least among us, while corporate board rooms decide whether they will be able to pay big dividends. Healthcare should be about, well, health!

The same goes for privatized prisons and “detention” centers. When there is profit to be made, the focus isn’t likely to be on rehabilitation for those who have committed crimes, as corporations have a vested interest in high recidivism rates. Prisoners are customers, they keep private prisons full and their profit margins strong.

This may be the biggest difference between Democrats and Republicans.   They want to kill government. “Government doesn’t work” they say. “Elect us and we’ll prove it”, and boy, haven’t they! The US House passed a bill that will cause 23 million to lose healthcare. It is sounding like the Senate is following suit, just making the millions lose coverage over seven years instead of four. Pay attention to the timeline. They’re trying to get through the next two election cycles before their base realizes they’ve been tossed over the cliff while supporting tax cuts for the very wealthiest of Americans.

As a Democrat, I believe in the power of government for good. Again, government shouldn’t do everything, but there are those areas where people SHOULD be put ahead of profit, and certainly ahead of tax cuts for the rich.


Posted on 17 Jun 2017, 01:14 - Category: Governmental policy

Our Military Women & Men Deserve a Raise

Congress always seems able to find money to fund wars, but seldom to pay for all the services our troops need when they return. With well over a decade of war, many more need VA services than for which the VA was intentioned, yet Congress doesn’t seem to find enough money to greatly increase the number of hospital beds and services for veterans. Neither does the GOP-led Congress seem to be able to find the money to give our troops a pay raise, even when many are having to rely on food stamps for their families. Many join the military for the benefits they’re promised- healthcare, college, a good retirement. We’ve all heard the stories of the long waits for VA care- when you have a system set up for a certain number of people, but then load in many times more people, it will get bogged down- guaranteed! When we promise college, then we need to pay for college, no ifs, ands or buts.

What we also need to do is to support these young women and men who go into the military now. Many are married and have families, and don’t make enough to support their families, so they have to turn to the government for food stamps. 

 It would be interesting to run the numbers, seeing how much food stamps cost us. Eliminating the need for food stamps could help to offset what I'm about to propose.

When members of military are deployed, be they active duty military, reservists or guard, their pay while deployed is income tax free, but the moment they get back home, it is taxed again. Not only is this difficult when it comes to filing income taxes, I think it short-changes the sacrifices they make in everyday life, even in America, serving in our military. Why not make all of their military pay income tax free, whether here or abroad? Given that the base pay for a new recruit is around $18,000, this makes sense. The lowest paid military are in the 10-15% tax bracket, so rather than a 1% pay raise as promised through 2017, we’d give them a 10-15% raise, all at once. Perhaps it needs to be phased out at the higher pay grades- someone making $65,000 a year could afford to pay taxes, and by the time we’re paying them that, they’re making about the same as they would in private industry. Like so many good ideas, this one didn’t originate with me, and it does need some more research, but it makes sense and needs to be considered. A retired military man contacted me recently, and suggested this as way to give our troops a pay raise. If we’re going to drive up our deficit fighting wars, then let’s either drive it up a little more to give our military folks this much-needed raise, or let’s cut some of those military weapons that the generals say are not needed or wanted, but that Congress continues to fund, (because the weapons-helicopters, tanks, etc.- are manufactured in their districts, and they don’t want to cause unemployment.) Let’s help those factories refit and start manufacturing solar panels, wind turbines and/or rainwater harvesting equipment. We can beat those “swords” into “plows”, freeing up money to offset the de facto raises for our military,  and it would help make our country more sustainable in terms of power and water. It may also help with troop retention and recruitment. What’s not to like about this?

Posted on 23 May 2016, 01:10 - Category: Military

Reasonable Gun Safety

If you want to buy more than 25 lbs of ammonium nitrate, there are regulations, because of the Oklahoma City bombing.

If you want to buy decongestant, even in allergy-prone Austin, you must not only show a photo ID, but also can only buy a limited amount, no matter how many people in your family need the medicine, because it can also be used to make meth.

There are safety regulations for cars (seat belts, anyone) and many other facets of our lives.

Yet, even though tens of thousands die each year from gun violence, and even though the majority of people, want reasonable gun safety laws, this GOP-led Congress refuses to do anything.

64% of gun deaths are suicides. I just read today about a man in the Houson area who apparently killed his wife, their two small children and then committed suicide, all with a gun. The children of Sandy Hook haunt me, and the thought that those parents who lost their babies to gun violence visited Congress people in their offices, and yet, NOTHING was done is unconscionable. Perhaps if we'd had a law that said you had to show a photo ID to buy ammunition, when mass murders started buying a lot of ammunition (think Sandy Hook and Califorinia terrorists),  they could be caught before they murdered innocents. Parents should not have to bury their babies because of gun violence.

I realize we don't have a Constitutional right to allergy relief, chemical fertilizers or even cars, but the 2nd amendment states " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It doesn't say "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State; AND the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, which is how the gun industry wants it to read. We're no where near "well-regulated", and closing the gun-show/internet sales loophole so that people will still have background checks is a reasonable step, and is supported by the majority of Americans, including Republicans.

I believe in reasonable gun safety and it is past time we had a Congress that doesn't shake in their boots at the thought of getting a bad grade from the NRA.


Posted on 20 Apr 2016, 16:21 - Category: Reasonable Gun Safety

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