Maine Writer

Its about people and issues I care about.

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Location: Topsham, MAINE, United States

My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Trickle Down Economics - Proof it Doesn't Work

Finally a pin was put to busting President Ronald Reagan's fantasy balloon about trickle down economics. 
Pope Francis debunked the "trickle down" myth.  
He said there's no proof it works.

Pope Francis Slams ‘Trickle Down’ Economics and Greed at the Top

In fact, Pope Francis surprised the world with his comments on homosexuality, abortion and birth control. Now, Pope Francis has taken on “trickle down” economics.

Pope Francis took issue with so-called “trickle down” economic theories, which in the U.S. are closely associated with President Ronald Reagan’s economic policies. (Trickle Down Economics has never been challenged by such a high profile person as Pope Francis.)

Francis said trickle down policies have not been proven to work and they reflect a “naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power.”

“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Pope Francis wrote.

“This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the...workings of the prevailing economic system,” the 76-year-old pontiff added.

Thank you, Dear Pope Francis. Your opinion directly addresses a hot political debate raging in the U.S. about whether or not governments should cut taxes for businesses and the wealthy. The theory is that the economic benefits will “trickle down” the economic ladder to the poor and middle class.

And Francis didn’t stop there. He also denounced tax evasion and economic inequality, and he exhorted governments to ponder a saying that “not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood.”

Indeed, if trickle down policies really worked, the income growth between the rich and poor couldn't be widening. But it is.

The gap in employment rates between America's highest- and lowest-income families has stretched to its widest levels since officials began tracking the data a decade ago, according to an analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press.

Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families—those earning less than $20,000—have topped 21 percent, nearly matching the rate for all workers during the 1930s Great Depression.

U.S. households with income of more than $150,000 a year have an unemployment rate of 3.2 percent, a level traditionally defined as full employment. At the same time, middle-income workers are increasingly pushed into lower-wage jobs. Many of them in turn are displacing lower-skilled, low-income workers, who become unemployed or are forced to work fewer hours, the analysis shows.

On the other hand, Americans have proof of how wealth sharing improved our nation's economic condition. Income sustaining programs like minimum wage laws, unemployment benefits, income assistance with Medicaid and pension benefits through Social Security have all been operational during the past 70 years during a time of enormous US economic growth.

Although I'm not an economist, it's clear to me that American standard of living has improved as a result of wealth sharing.

I've lived in the Philippines for 3 years. I know the difference between living in a nation where the government shares the wealth, in the US, rather than puts its money in Swiss bank accounts. Although the Philippine government claims it's recovering 500 million dollars of Swiss bank account money stashed away by President Marcos, I submit that amount of return is chump change. Americans gave the Marcos government billions and practically none of the money was shared except with his friends.

Obviously, I've no idea just how much money really landed in the Philippines as a result of American support for President Marcos. This is what I do know, because I've seen it. At any given time, I saw five American aircraft carriers in Subic Bay at one time. There are a minimum of five thousand people on each aircraft carrier. All of those people, on those aircraft carriers, eventually found themselves spending American dollars in Philippine towns and cities. In spite of this enormous amount of money spent in one small country over a period of at least 10 years, there were no advances in public plumbing, paved roads or paved streets.  

Five hundred million returned from Swiss banks to the Philippines? Ha! Chump change. What happened to trickle down economics in the Philippines? It trickled up. The US money, stashed in Swiss banks, sustains many status concious and elete Filipinos living a very high standard of living in gated communities.  Meanwhile, the standard of living for most oher Filipinoes hasn't advanced very much. Big slums remain in Manila.

Although Republicans like Sarah Palin and David Brooks are skeptical about the opinion Pope Francis shared about the wrong mindedness of trickle down economics, the proof is in the outcome. 

Where's proof that trickle down economics works? David Brooks told Public Broadcasting "News Hour" that capitalism has improved the lives of Asians.  Well, Mr. Brooks, when did you live in Asia?

There's no proof in support of trickle down economics and Pope Francis is saintly to have finally put a pin to this ridiculous myth. 

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Conspiracy of the Sarah Palin created "Death Panels"

A Forbes op-ed column brings attention, once again, to the conspiracy of death panel ideation created by Sarah Palin, as she attempted to discredit President Obama's Health Care Reform aka "Obamacare". In fact, "death panels" are figments of right wing zealous pro-life imagination, whereby they are convinced how dying people will be selected or de-selected for premature death based on certain, to be determined, medical criteria.  But, it's a myth.

Now, Time Magazine political reporter Mark Halperin, who's a regular on MSNBC Morning Joe and co-author of the book "Game Change", about President Obama's re-election campaign, has issued a "me bad" tweet apology about his part in continuing this "death panel" conspiracy theory.

It's amazing how Sarah Palin was able to create this deadly concept. She's masterful at soaking up the political oxygen in any debate. Her creativity is boundless. By conjuring up the image of "death panels", Palin was nearly able to put a stake in the heart of the entire health care reform initiative. It took a co-ordinated effort from medical, hospice and health policy experts to push back on her concocted theory.  

Regardless of the number of credible people who've declared "death panels" DOA, the concept took hold with righties who're quick to buy into other stupid ideas like creationism or who deny global warming. 

Incredulously, Mark Halperin jumped on this death panel myth in his recent interview on the Steve Marlzberg Show. Perhaps Halperin's books aren't selling well. It' no wonder.  He's certainly no Tom Brokaw. Nevertheless, to gain attention, he jumped on the Sarah Palin conspiracy train to create some buzz around his ego.

An op-ed in Forbes has now called into question Halperin's reporting credibility. Nice call.

It seems to me, Halperin has forgotten his journalism 101 mantra. He's supposed to report and analyze the news, rather than create it.

Perhaps Halperin's job at Time was already in danger after he was suspended from Morning Joe for using derogatory and incendiary language about President Obama.

Perhaps Halperin is hankering for another job and he thinks Sarah Palin might be hiring.

Whatever his motivation, the conspiracy of "death panels" continues to be used as a weapon against health care reform.

Unfortunately, "death panels" has now become a Palinism in the American lexicon.

People who believe in death panels are the creationists who deny global warming. It was Halperin's responsibility, as a journalist, to educate people, rather than feed the death panel conspiracy.

If Sarah Palin won't hire Halperin, he might join the recently let go 60 Minutes Lara Logan, to form a support group for discredited journalists. Obamacare health insurance might even pay for the therapy.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Viagra or Contraception: Supreme Court to Interfere in Women's Right to Health Care

It makes no sense for the US Supreme Court to become involved in still another trumped up challenge to a legally implemented health care reform law, aka Obamacare. This time around, the court will hear another right wing driven challenge under the pretense of protecting the freedom of religious groups to prevent the coverage of women's contraception under the Affordable Care Act. 

But, will the court also intervene about a man's right to seek coverage under the Obamacare exchange plans, for Viagra, the treatment of male erectile dysfunction? Viagra is paid for by many health plans and prescription drug benefits. Contraception isn't.

There's a huge difference between Viagra and contraception coverage. One is a male sexual enhancer while the other protects women from risks associated with too many pregnancies.

Women seek reproductive health care, including contraception, because we choose to avoid the risks associated with bearing too many children. Bearing too many children can precipitate risk for gall bladder disease, urinary tract anomalies and diabetes. Moreover, too many pregnancies challenges a family's economic ability to support healthy children.

On the other hand, Viagra is a treatment for a very specific male issue correlated directly with his ability to be sexually active. There's no health protection gained from a typical Viagra prescription. Often, Viagra is helpful for men who have erectile dysfunction related to diabetes or neuromuscular diseases, but the intention of the drug therapy is always to increase a man's virility. Viagra does nothing to protect a man's systemic health. In fact, I'd argue that Viagra puts men at risk for contracting veneral diseases.

I simply don't understand religious groups obsession over women's reproduction while men are free to seek aphrodisiacs from snake oil salesmen or have prescription drug coverage for Viagra. In fact, if men were only virile once a month, women would likely need less contraception.  

Now the US Supreme Court has decided to create even more controversy about women's health by hearing the case for contraception coverage in the Health Care Reform law.  

My question to the Justices is this: How many Supreme Court Justices know how their mother's practiced contraception?  No doubt, every Justice has a mother and these women either abstained from sex or created some other methodology for preventing too many pregnancies.

Would the Supreme Court Justices recommend that women return to the methods used by their own mothers to space their pregnancies?

It's ridiculous for the Supreme Court of the United States to continue fueling the right wing obsession with women's reproductive health under the auspices of religious practices.  

At the end of the day, trust me, every woman finds a way to practice contraception. Neither the Supreme Court or anybody else should have any influence whatsoever about how a woman chooses to prevent multiple pregnancies.  

As for who pays for contraception? Well, if men received contraception therapy instead of Viagra coverage under their insurance plans, women likely wouldn't need contraception coverage at all. 

Therefore, the Supreme Court's tax payer paid for interference in a woman's right to health care isn't fair because, "What's good for the goose must also be good for the gander."

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doris Kearns Goodwin on Journalism and the President

In the past, some US Presidents have instinctively known how to get along with the news media, while others have ignored this responsibility.Yet, the days are past when US President's can lead our nation, while remaining aloof of the news media. Moreover, the days are also  in the past when a US President can create news with facts alone. 

News has become a 24/7 experience whereby facts are re-processed by well paid personality pundits. By the time a 24 hour news cycle passes, the facts of any given story are filtered through the spin of liberal and conservative think tanks. At the end of this punditry, facts often become irrelevant while spin becomes reality. 

Clearly, the free press relies on the ability of reporters to tell people what's going on in the world, without anybody editing the facts. Obviously, reporters want their accounts of the news to be fresh and more timely than their peers, who are often competing for the same stories. At the same time, those who create the news are often preferential to reporters who present favorable impressions of the facts. In other words, news reporting is a synergistic relationship between news makers and the media. They need to work together.
But, who prevents a synergistic relationship from becoming cozy?

President Franklin Roosevelt's leadership ability relied on his symbiotic relationship with the press, says historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. Roosevelt was able to take press criticism in stride. His presidency was marked by the innovative use of a term he coined, "the bully pulpit," or the national platform afforded to the presidency to shape public opinion.
The president of the United States must have — at a very minimum — a decent relationship with the press. This symbiotic relationship, best understood by Theodore Roosevelt, is a hallmark of democracy that the commander in chief must embrace, says historian Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin writes about this relationship between US Presidents and the media in her most recent book, "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.

First, breaking news comes in. Before you know it, she says, whatever it was you were focusing on, something else comes in the way.  Complicating the problem, she says, is when everyone has their own bully pulpit, like the bloggers, or people on Facebook, who can start talking with a megaphone which can be as loud sometimes as the president.
There was once a time when reporters enjoyed spontaneous discussions with US Presidents. But now, media handlers sculpt every word. Today, even the seconds between a question and an answer are timed. Don't wait too long to answer a question, or the length of the pause makes news. Words matter today, more so than ever before. Instant communications prevents candid conversations. Actor James Cagney's colorful portrayal of "off the record", as in this YouTube video, is today's entertaining anachronism .

At risk in this symbiotic relationship is the potential loss of highly qualified leaders who simply can't be media personalities. For example, Thomas Jefferson couldn't have kept his relationship with his Negro mistress quiet in today''s intense media spotlight.

Yet, American democracy was engineered by Thomas Jefferson.

As Americans bereave the 50th annivesary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we realize how this young president's style raised the bar for presidential media relations. Kennedy had a natural instinct for managing the media and shielding his family from negative news. He could be glib and humerous, like he was during press conferences. Conversely, he also knew when to be extremely serious, as he was during the Cuban Missle Crises.  

Fortunately, President Kennedy used his bully pulpit to improve the human condition or to defend our nation. Consider how a similarly charismatic leader could use the same talent for nefarious purposes. 

Consequently, it's essential for our news media to hold all leaders accountable to the truth. A symbiotic or synergistic relationship between US presidents and the media should never be allowed to become cozy. Americans need oversight of the media because competition in the news business can create compromising relationships.

Although bloggers and facebook pundits can be annoying because we are challenged by objecivity, we can also serve the purpose of keeping media moguls honest. Independent oversight of the media's symbiotic relationship with the US President can assure transparent freedom of the press.  

Perhaps Doris Kearns Goodwin can be a blogger after she is finished writing all of her interesting history books. She could sure help to keep the bully pulpit transparent. 

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Friday, November 22, 2013

John F. Kennedy Today

As horribly gruesome as President Kennedy's assassination continues to be to watch, in fact, his legacy is one of optimism. America lost a symbol of all that's possible when President Kennedy was murdered, right before our eyes, in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963. He was brutally gunned down, killed by a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald, whose motivation is still unknown. 

In spite of decades of stories written by historians, pundits and skeptics who attempt to recreate President Kennedy's administration, the fact is, his youthful optimism prevails today, but we must rekindle it's power.

Nevertheless, tragically, the horror of his death continues to reverberate as though the event were happening all over again, especially today, 50 years since the fateful day in Dallas Texas.

Yet, Kennedy's charisma transcends historic attempts to reinvent any facts about his short 3 year administration.

Americans might use this half century reminder of his assassination as a rallying point to return to the optimism Kennedy inspired.

Optimism is driven by people who are optimistic. President Kennedy, with his young and stunningly beautiful family, embodied the optimism of Americans born of immigrants.They believed in the American dream, a nation where the streets were paved with the promise of gold. Kennedy embodies that optimism.

This optimism was frozen in time when President Kennedy was murdered. Moreover, any attempt to revive the administration's Camelot dream, conceptualized by Jacqueline Kennedy, was walloped by a decade of unbelievable civil unrest. Subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were more surreal than doomsday prophesies.  

Obviously, it's impossible to know if President Kennedy's legendary "Camelot" would have continued, had he and his murdered colleagues had lived. 

What we know for sure is how Kennedy inspired people to believe in what was possible, including putting a man on the moon by the end of the '60's decade. Americans put men on the moon, not because it was easy, but because it was a challenge.We were inspired to achieve all that was and would be possible, because President Kennedy allowed us to believe we could be all we were inspired to be.

How does President Kennedy continue to inspire us a half century after his murder? He inspires us with words that matter. His quotes are so relevant and fresh, it's like they were written for us today. 

This some of what he said:

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."

"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on."

"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future."

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

"We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came."

"Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind."

"My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Although John F. Kennedy will never again be with us, his words will never, ever, leave us. Perhaps his most memorable inauguration quote should be attached to every oath taken by our nation's political leaders. When they raise their right hand they should repeat:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" help me God. 

And that's how John F. Kennedy will continue to inspire optimism and confidence for  our nation today and in the future. 

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Disappearing Hospitals - Imploding Under Reform

Dr. Robert Pearl writes about how health care reform will bring about changes in how hospitals deliver acute care and many will go out of business or change.

Pearl writes: Last week’s (Forbes) article discussed the “strategic inflections point” as that defining moment in any industry when the rules of the game begin to change. In the era of health care reform, hospitals across this country are now experiencing a time of transition.
Pearl writes: We can predict that the first hospital CEO who suggests closing down a cardiac surgical program will be fired on the spot. The doctors and local community will do everything in their power to stop it from happening.

Consolidating or closing entire hospitals will be even more painful. Regulators would likely intervene. Change will be resisted and delayed.

But, if there were fewer hospitals with higher volumes, quality would rise and the overall spend on hospital services would decrease. We should not underestimate how difficult this process will be or how long it may take. But once it is complete, patients will barely miss the old hospital down the street.

Pearl speaks about volume, but there's more to this story. Obviously, volume drives profit margins, regardless of what proceedures are performed. Also, volume is positively correlated with quality outcomes. In other words, those hospitals where volume of services are high report better patient outcomes.

Nevertheless, insurers must agree to pay for these procedures and there's a limit to what's covered. 

Hospitals are also in decline because the cost of keeping them modern (like hotels), fueled for temperature control and germ free have exceeded the reimbursement received for providing care. Some hospitals are booking post operative patients in real hotels rather than absorb the expense of keeping their in-patient facilities staffed to licensing requirements. For example, hospitals can only charge so much exuberant costs for simple wound dressings to compensate for the cost of care. Frankly, it's cheaper to send patients home with an instruction sheet about how to change bandages. 

So, just how can hospitals bring down the cost of care and create profit margins? It seems like small hospitals will need to merge with health care systems where high volume services can be performed, like MacDonald's produces hamburgers. It's a harsh analysis but describes the way it works. Some hospitals will become centers for volume in heart care, others for orthopedic care and some for cancer care. This means the local community hospitals will become outpatient emergency centers and feeder systems for the larger volume facilities.   

Patients will be focused on managed care organizations rather than their hospitals. In the future, it makes sense for people to live in places where their managed care plans provide coverage because, otherwise, receiving care will require paying large co-pays. Also, advanced practice nurses will become integral to every primary care practice, to provide access to growing number of patients who will buy coverage through the health care exchanges.

Here is more of Pearl's interesting Forbes article:

What first comes to mind when you hear the word “hospital”?

Your reaction may depend on your past experiences. You may feel gratitude for the birth of a child or the treatment of acute appendicitis. You may feel sorrow, remembering a loved one who passed away on a hospital bed.

Regardless of our experiences, many of us assume the closer our hospital is to where we live, the safer and better off we are. But that assumption is wrong. Fewer hospitals with increased volumes would lead to higher quality of care and better clinical outcomes.
Some hospitals were born to fail
In the early 1700s, hospitals provided little medical care. Instead they served as isolation facilities for those with contagious illnesses, as shelters for vagrants and those with mental illness, or as almshouses for the poor. Those who could afford medical care (middle- and upper-class families) received it in their own homes, including surgery.

By the end of the 19th century, medical care was becoming too complex to be delivered in the home. As a result, care shifted to centralized facilities where patients benefited from the latest medical advancements and around-the-clock physician and nursing availability.

A century ago, traveling even moderate distances was incredibly slow and expensive compared to the cost of hospital care. Therefore, building a hospital in every town made sense. Hospitals became a source of great civic pride for community leaders who comprised the governing boards. And so the “community hospital” was born.
Founded by physicians, religious groups and public municipalities, the number of U.S. hospitals grew exponentially from 178 in 1873 to 4,300 in 1909 to 6,000 in 1946. The passage of the Hill-Burton Act in 1946 helped further expand that number to 7,200 by 1970.

With the introduction of the publicly funded Medicare and Medicaid programs in 1966, the number of individuals with health insurance skyrocketed – as did the demand for inpatient services, as did hospital costs.

By the 1990s, high-margin procedures such as heart bypass surgery and total joint replacement were performed in (and advertised by) nearly every hospital. But the demand for inpatient services sharply declined in the 1990s with the introduction of managed care, the expansion of outpatient alternatives, and the mounting costs of a hospital stay. During that decade, some hospitals were forced to merge or shut down.

Since 2000, the number of acute-care hospitals has held steady at around 5,700. However, the push to limit utilization at these high-cost facilities continues while low-volume hospitals across the country are struggling to survive.
Hospitals are facing a strategic inflection point
Last week’s article discussed the “strategic inflections point” as that defining moment in any industry when the rules of the game begin to change. In the era of health care reform, hospitals across this country are now experiencing a time of transition.

The reduction in their volume, revenue and margin threatens their independence and even their existence. Over the past decade, 16 percent of hospitals have consolidated by joining a health system. That trend is accelerating in the context of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

And there's more of this article at this link: 

Therefore, what's going to happen to closed hospitals?
They'll become relics like empty textile mill buildings, inner city schools and underutilized churches. Self care will trump hospital admissions. Moreover, insurance companies will gain from profits once absorbed by acute care hospitals because they'll reap an incentive for keeping people well, thereby saving the cost of paying for expensive sickness care. 

All of the above information, of course, can be turned upside down as people live longer and require more chronic care. I haven't read Pearl's analysis of how to pay for the care of an aging population. 
Stay tuned.  

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gettysburg Address - A Pledge of Allegiance Appendex

Americans Pledge Allegiance to our Flag. 

We place our hands over our hearts and recite... "One Nation, Under God, Indivisible...." 

Yet, during America's brutal Civil War, this oath was challenged by confederate states that wanted to support an unsustainable way of life, using humans as slaves to provide labor. 

This totally abhorrent social and economic system, reliant on Negro slaves, had to be destroyed. In the face of extraordinary adversity, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves. He prevailed in the Civil War, in spite of tremendous obstacles. Although the slaves were freed and the Union won the Civil War, Lincoln eventually paid for his hard fought victories with his life.  Sadly, even in spite of the Civil War, the defeated confederate flag continues to be displayed in several states that were among those in the southern confederacy.  

That's one reason why Americans need to remember and recite Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

As a result of his landmark Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863, I submit Americans should recite his words as an appendix to our Pledge of Allegiance. After all, our nation's indivisible union wouldn't exist without the enormous sacrifices made by those who fought to sustain our United States of America as a slave free nation.

President Abraham Lincoln's words on November 19, 1863 are as riveting today as the moment he delivered them on the battlefield where the dead still haunt those of us who study their purpose.

Lincoln said, "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

Therefore, I suggest, during this commemorative year, in honor of the day 150 years ago, when Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, that Americans recite his short but eloquent speech as an appendix to our Pledge of Allegiance, whenever we're asked to say this oath:

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all...." followed by 150 more words penned by President Abraham Lincoln:

"Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth."

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obamacare is an Insurance Plan - Republicans Should Support the Reforms

With 48 million Americans uninsured, meaning they don't have any health insurance to cover the cost of illness care, it seems to me there's an exclusive market to sell coverage to those eager to have coverage. Indeed, this is a marketing dream. Put up affordable health care plans and allow the uninsured to pick an affordable product.What's wrong with this idea?  

Absolutely nothing. It should work because people will pay for it.

What's wrong is how the Obama administration allowed this missed opportunity, to sell health insurance to the uninsured through "exchanges", to become a communications glitch and a political conundrum. In other words, Republicans quickly took advantage of the public's general misunderstanding about health insurance to cast mistrust on President Obama's credibility. Meanwhile, the insurance reforms provided by Obamacare (funny how the media is suddenly calling it "health care reform") are overlooked, while Republicans create a frenzy about the flawed sign-on website.

In fact, health insurance exchanges offer affordable plans to the uninsured, whereby the beneficiary can shop for coverage, even for pre-existing conditions, like diabetes or heart disease.

Healthy people can buy insurance with high deductibles and thereby pay lower premiums.

In fact, the point is, everyone who qualifies and needs health insurance can buy an affordable product in an insurance exchange.

Republicans should support the insurance reforms required under the Affordable Care Act, because the law requires people to pay for their coverage.  

Obviously, Republicans created an Obamacare "red herring", a diversion. Rather than support health insurance coverage for everyone, Republicans would rather create mistrust. Nevertheless, Medicare is a federal health insurance plan and very few people complain about their coverage.

Moreover, Republicans have no plan to cover 48 million uninsured.

Unfortunately, in the Obamacare debacle, Republicans think they've found a mythical "silver bullet" to recover from their low approval ratings post the disasterous government shutdown. 

In my opinion, this tempest in a tea pot about Obamacare won't change public opinion about Republicans, regardless of how it negatively impacts the President's credibility. Republicans need an alternative plan, but they don't have an idea to offer.

The fact is, Republicans should support Obamacare because it provides health insurance for people who will pay for their coverage. It's the Republican thing to do.

Rather than degrade Obamacare, Republicans must find a way to cover 48 million people who want to pay for coverage.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Obamacare Glitch - A Preventable Political Glitch

Obamacare has already helped untold numbers of people who clearly have benefited from the insurance reforms mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Although the regrettable website fiasco, beginning October 1st, and the insurance exchange sign on glitches should've been foreseen, the "tempest in a tea pot" about the website problems are overactive political rhetoric. 

But they were preventable.

Obviously, the Obama administration deserves blame for this problem. Administration officials should've gone overboard to guarantee that the landmark moment of the Affordable Care Act, the day when people could really sign up for health insurance, would be a resounding success. Instead, the momentous occasion turned into political fodder. 

It's just beyond me to explain how the administration didn't see this coming. They've had four years to prepare.

Peter Grier of the Christian Science Monitor writes the following:

"Right now the troubled site can’t handle more than 20,000 to 30,000 users at a time, according to Washington Post reporters Amy Goldstein, Juliet Eilperin, and Lena H. Sun. That’s about half its intended capacity.So what’s going on here? Is this a big deal, or a tempest in a tea cup (green loose leaf, hold the milk and sugar)? We’d say its importantish. Missing the deadline could cause big political problems for the White House", he writes.

Grier is correct but he misses an important point. Missing the deadline is a much bigger problem than a political miscue. Instead, it's fiscally irresponsible. What's important about the missed deadline is the old sales slogan about "closing a deal". Obamacare must sign on healthy people and God only knows how many frustrated website tries were attempted by those who don't have pre-existing conditions. Obviously, unknown numbers of people said, "Oh, what the ...&^%, I've been without health insurance this long, who cares?"  (Ouch, a lost sale!) 

Of course, missing the deadline is rather meaningless this early on in the process, so long as people who want health insurance can eventually access the website and buy a plan. The problem is, those who procastinate are likely the healthy people who aren't necessarily driven to have health insurance to cover pre-existinng conditions.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration is so defensive about this website debacle that they've lost sight of the proverbial forest through the trees. In fact, the Obamacare plan is already in place for millions of people who are benefiting from the following reforms:

1.  Children are covered under their parents plan until 26 years of age.
2.  Pre-existing conditions are now covered by insurers
3.  Children are covered by their parent health  insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions.
4.  Health insurance companies must demonstrate how they use premiums to pay for your coverage or provide a refund.
5.  Donut hole in Medicare Part D plan is fixed saving Senior Citizens money.
6.  Wellness care and mammograms are covered.
7.  States where the Medicaid expansion is in place are now offering every qualified person in their population access to coverage for health care. this coverage is provided through private insurance, Medicare, health exchanges or expanded Medicaid. Many states opted out of the expansion, but those where this is in place have improved access to health care for everyone who qualifies.

Americans can't go backwards on the above reforms, the Medicaid expansion notwithstanding. Although the Medicaid expansion is an interim reform, put in place to help people access private health insurance, the temporary coverage will provide a bridge for many adults who might be between the ages of 63-65 and waiting for their Medicare eligibility to be available.

Obsessive complainers like Sarah Palin, Senator (25 percent of Texas without health insurance) Cruz, Senator Rand (health insurance coverage paid by tax payers) Paul and other right wingers have nothing to offer in place of Obamacare. They should tell Americans what alternative is available, if they intend to replace the Affordable Care Act. In fact, none of them offer any alternative. They just whine and make noise. (Unfortunately, hearing aides are not covered under any insurance plan.)

Although the Obmacare roll out should have been a moment of triumph, the  fact is, the preventable website glitches will be worked out over time. People will eventually be able to sign on, in spite of Republican over reaction to the website failures.

Regrettably, the Obamacare sign on problem is fiscal rather than political. Healthy people who are so physically fit they don't have time to waste trying to access the failed website may choose to pay penalties rather than attempt to get coverage. If this increasingly likely situation grows, the coverage guaranteed under the insurance exchanges will be in jeopardy. Shame on the Obama administration for missing the opportunity to, once and for all, put all Obamacare "naysayers" out to pasture.  

Perhaps the biggest glitch with the failed Obamacare insurance exchange roll out is how it gave oxygen to right wingers, like Sarah Palin, who now has her whining voice back on prime time television. Groan.

Now, Republicans are having their "we told you so" moment. This roll out glitch was totally preventable, but now we must listen to this tempest in a tea pot rhetoric, until the water cools down.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

60 Minutes Useless Apology - Corrective Action Needed

60 Minutes never described the program's corrective action during their apology about the "mistake" they made in their wrong minded reporting on Benghazi.

Right wing extremists were quick to leap to conspiracy theories about the tragic Benghazi attack, where Ambassador Stevens was murdered by a terrorist mob while he was (for reasons unknown) visiting the Libyan consulate.This terrible incident came close to bringing down the credibility of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and put President Obama's re-election in jeopardy.

Rather than check out the facts in the attack, the venerable CBS 60 Minutes broadcast leaped to believe the fabricated story of a man who was eager to sell books. This un-vetted informant turned out to be a liar. But, in a tepid retraction, 60 Minutes called their broadcast a "mistake". Frankly, it was more than a mistake. Their false report was irresponsible journalism.

On Friday, “60 Minutes” correspondent Lara Logan appeared on “CBS This Morning” to ‘fess up to a mistake in the show’s Oct. 27 Benghazi investigation. Their false program relied heavily on an account by a security operator, Dylan Davies, who claimed he witnessed and participated in the hostilities of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi. As Logan explained on “This Morning,” Davies’s account didn’t hold up; he’d told a different story, it turned out, to his supervisor as well as to the FBI.

Thanks to some good questions from CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell, viewers of “This Morning” found out how “60 Minutes” vetted Davies, how “60 Minutes” didn’t know about a report that Davies had written for his supervisor and why “60 Minutes” went ahead with the Davies account (anyway). The enlightening segment lasted nearly five minutes. But nobody asked Logan why the 60 Minutes reporters believed this false informant, in the first place? Were 60 Minutes reporters delusional in thinking they had the next "Watergate" story? Well, the 60 Minutes "deep throat" choked under scrutiny.

In the future, sensationalist stories must include corroborative evidence. Unfortunately 60 Minutes is slowly becoming a news entertainment program, but the Benghazi "mistake" even puts this programming credibility in japed. 

In the absence of an explanation about how 60 Minutes made such an egregious "mistake" and what corrective action is being taken to prevent future "mistakes", the apology by Lara Logan is useless.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

High Speed Rail and Republican Obstrutionism - More Backwards Momentum

It makes no sense for Republcian to oppose all progressive initiatives, like high speed rail.  

I'm wondering if the GOP's consistent obstructionism is a ploy to create overwheleming negative energy, like a tsunami of polotical acrimony, for the purpose of building a new world order of their making. In the regressive environment they've created, Republcians could egotistically claim credit for buidling a brave new world. This is delusional and perhaps paranoid thinking, but how else can rational thinking people understand the motivation behind Republcian obstructionism?  

What other reason is there for Republicans to oppose everything?
Rather than call themselves the Grand Old Party, Republicans are a grumpy old party of obstructionists.

Republican obstructiom is regressive and negatively impacting our nation's competitivve position in the world. Now, high speed rail is among the GOP obstrucitonist positions.  They don't want it.

Obviously, Republcians don't care about train travel because ordinary people, like the middle class, would benefit from this highly efficient form of transporatation. Otherwise, if Republicans rode trains, they'd want to take credit for supporting high speed rail.  High speed rail would mean important investing in our nation's crumbling infrastructure(bridges and roads), creating important private sector jobs in industries supporting the trains and providing Americans with more affordable alternatives to expensive airline travel. High speed rail would allow workers to be more flexible about where to live and work and expand business access to interstate commerce.

But Republicans simply won't support high speed rail. Frankly, Republicans don't seem to support any progressive policies. 

Instead, Republicans stand strong in opposition to all social safety net, progressive policies and economic stimulus where middle class people benefit from income sharing, ie "taxes" invested for the purpose of improving the human condition.

High speed rail supporters blame Republcians for America's inability to advance this important transporation system, enjoyed by many other nations like Japan and much of Europe.

Did Republicans kill America’s high speed rail plan?

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
I could answer this question in one word: Yes.
" me a 'railroad guy'. Freight rail? That’s a no-brainer. Anything that can be hauled on a train instead of a truck should be on a train—period. Passenger rail? 'Build it and they will ride.' That’s why the all-too-common political shenanigans or posturing that prevent the expansion of passenger rail in this country always gets me going.

Unfortunately, in the case of high speed rail, the perpetrators with the political sledgehammers and baseball bats are Republicans. Why? I haven’t a clue. It’s just the way too many of them think.

Projects get planned; projects get partially funded; projects get killed. It’s happened before and probably will happen again. Meanwhile, the United States falls farther and farther behind the rest of the developed world in passenger rail, despite bright spots like the Northeast Corridor and Chicago-St. Louis and the Pacific Northwest, which aren’t really “true” high speed but higher-speed systems. California—if it ever gets under way—will become our first high speed system...".

Americans must obstruct the obstructionist Republicans by voting them all out of office. Our nation can't become a regressive nation where trains are children's "choo-choos", while China builds a high speed rail to extend from Bejing to Burma! (Although, honestly, I'm not sure China's extremely ambitious high speed rail plan will work, the fact is, their nation is willing to invest in trying to make it happen.They're not obstructing its progress.)

Let's stop this backward national momentum regarding all things progressive. We must support high speed rail and President Obama's initiatives to create jobs by passing the American Jobs Act.

President Obama must be our 21st century's President Eisenhower by pushing his vision into a legacy. Americans deserve high speed rail. Meanwhile, we the voters must remove all obstructionist Republicans from office who continue to obstruct progress, but who are mysteriously quick to support backwards momentum.

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan - Philippines in Peril: Reflections of a Former Resident

Typhoon Haiyan - one of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall. 

One hundred million Filipones were in the storm's path. Let's also remember those who live outside the Philippines and cannot connect with their families - aka "ATM" parents.

Although the Filipinos themselves are traumatically wiped out by this horribly dangerous storm, my thoughts and prayers also extend to the collateral population of "ATM Moms and Dads".These Filipinas and Filipinos are exported labor for wealthier people in countries like Singapore and in the Middle East.Their only connection with their families are often via the money they deposit from their meager incomes into automatic banking machines or "ATMs". These people are domestics and laborers who send nearly all of their incomes back to their families in the Philippines, where their money is drawn down from inside the country's ATM machines.

With the Philippines currently in post storm turmoil for the foreseeable future, the communications via ATM, snail mail and satellite cell phones are down. The fate of these separated families will have to wait an agonizing amount of time before the outcomes of this terrible Typhoon Halyan are known.

Meanwhile, CNN reports the devastation at "ground zero" in Leyete, where the storm hit hardest, includes hundreds of bodies washed up on beaches and this is an early assessment. Monster winds plowed across this section of the country killing people and damaging everything in the path of the storm. In Tacloban, Philippines CNN reports that no building in the coastal city of 200,000 residents appears to have escaped damage from Super Typhoon Haiyan.

All the Philippines are in peril as a result of this storm and the devastation will likely extend for decades.  

Our family lived in the Philippines for three years. Out heartfelt prayers and sympathies pour out to these beautiful and brave people who were our friends and neighbors for three years.

Americans were once the colonizers of the Philippines. Our humanitarian response must extend to those impacted by this tragic weather event. Our help is essential. 

Compassionate recovery efforts must reach out to help our friends and allies who have few, if any, safety net options. Many will likely never fully recover from this storm's terrible destruction; but we're obligated to help these people who are fellow human beings and international allies.

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Bible Belt and Pro-Life Hypocrisy

Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: "When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist."

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” Ronald Sider says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.

Finally, humanitarian coverage about how Christians should be calling for health care coverage for the poor.  

Bible Belt Christians have been obsessed with the abortion issue, but they haven't seemed to understand how health care is as pro-life an issue as protecting the lives of the unborn. There's virtually no difference between protecting unborn babies from death by abortion, and supporting the right for every person to access quality and affordable health care.  Christians should oppose abortion and support access to health care for all people.

In fact, it's hypocritical to oppose all abortions without also advocating for universal health care and visa versa.

Now CNN Reports:  John Blake reports

(CNN) – The Rev. Timothy McDonald gripped the pulpit with both hands, locked eyes with the shouting worshippers, and decided to speak the unspeakable.

The bespectacled Baptist minister was not confessing to a scandalous love affair or the theft of church funds. He brought up another taboo: the millions of poor Americans who won’t get health insurance beginning in January because their states refused to accept Obamacare.

McDonald cited a New Testament passage in which Jesus gathered the 5,000 and fed them with five loaves and two fishes. Members of his congregation bolted to their feet and yelled, “C’mon preacher” and “Yessir” as his voice rose in righteous anger.

“What I like about our God is that he doesn’t throw people away,” McDonald told First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta during a recent Sunday service. “There will be health care for every American. Don’t you worry when they try to cast you aside. Just say I’m a leftover for God and leftovers just taste better the next day!”

McDonald’s congregation cheered, but his is a voice crying in the wilderness. He’s willing to condemn state leaders whose refusal to accept Obamacare has left nearly 5 million poor Americans without health coverage. But few of the most famous pastors in the Bible Belt will join him. 

Joel Osteen? Bishop T.D. Jakes, and other prominent pastors throughout the South?

Like McDonald, they preach in states where crosses and church steeples dot the skyline yet the poor can’t get the health insurance they would receive if they lived elsewhere. All declined to comment.

When people talk about the Affordable Care Act, most focus on the troubled launch of its website. But another complication of the law has received less attention: a “coverage gap” that will leave nearly 5 million poor Americans without health care, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation study.

Learn more from Kaiser about the coverage gap in states that refused Obamacare

The coverage gap was created when 25 states refused to accept the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. The people who fall into this gap make too much money to qualify for Medicaid and not enough to qualify for Obamacare subsidies in their state insurance exchanges. If they lived elsewhere, they would probably get insurance. But because they live in a state that refused the new health care law, they likely will remain among the nation’s uninsured poor after Obamacare coverage kicks in come January.

The coverage gap has been treated as a political issue, but there is a religious irony to the gap that has been ignored.

Most of the people who fall into the coverage gap live in the Bible Belt, a 14-state region in the South stretching from North Carolina to Texas and Florida. The Bible Belt is the most overtly Christian region in the country, filled with megachurches and pastors who are treated like celebrities. All but two Bible Belt states have refused to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Should Bible Belt pastors say anything publicly about the millions of poor people in their communities stranded by the coverage gap? Is it anti-Christian for state leaders to turn down help for the people Jesus called “the least of these"? Or should pastors say nothing publicly about such issues because they are strictly political?

 CNN's Sanjay Gupta explains who falls into the coverage gap

Who speaks for the poor in the coverage gap?

When these questions were sent to many of the most popular pastors in the Bible Belt, they hit a wall of silence. Virtually no prominent pastor wanted to talk about the uninsured poor in their midst.

Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in the nation, declined to be interviewed about the subject. So did Bishop T.D. Jakes. Their megachurches are both in Texas, the state with the nation’s highest number of people without health insurance.

Max Lucado, the best-selling Christian author who is a minister at a church in Texas, declined to speak; Charles Stanley, the Southern Baptist pastor in Georgia whose In Touch Ministries reaches millions around the globe, declined to speak; Ed Young Sr. and Ed Young Jr., a father and son in Texas who pastor two of the fastest-growing churches in the nation, also declined to speak.

Bishop T.D. Jakes declined to talk about the millions of poor people stranded in the “coverage gap."
The list goes on.
The silence is not hard to understand. Obamacare is a polarizing political issue in the Bible Belt. A pastor who publicly weighs in on the subject could divide his or her congregation or risk their job. And some prominent pastors like Osteen are popular in part because they  do not alienate fans by taking political stands.
The Rev. Phil Wages, senior pastor Winterville First Baptist Church in Georgia and a blogger, was one of the few Bible Belt ministers willing to speak on the subject.
He says he won’t preach about the coverage gap created by the state’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion because he has what he calls theological differences with the thrust of the new health care law.
Wages says the Bible teaches that the care of orphans, widows and the sick are given to the church, not to the government. Early Christians were the first to create hospitals, orphanages and hospices.
“I have an issue with the government coming in to get money through me - through taxes - to take care of people, when my argument is that I should be free to give to charities or to my church in order to take care of the sick and destitute,” he says.
Wages says he has no doubt that lack of health insurance is a monumental problem, and that many people are poor because of circumstances beyond their control. Yet there is no New Testament example of Jesus trying to shape public policy on behalf of the poor.
“I do not see any biblical precedent where Jesus ever went to Herod or Pilate and said you should be taking care of the poor,” Wages says. “Jesus told his disciples to take care of the poor and the apostles said the same thing to the early church.”

Wages’ position is impractical and unbiblical, says Ronald Sider, a longtime advocate for the poor and author of “The Scandal of Evangelical Politics."
Churches and charities don’t have enough resources to take care of an estimated 48 million Americans who don’t have health care. The Bible is filled with examples of God's fury over economic oppression of the poor, which Christians should regard as scandalous, he says.

“If you are not sharing God’s concern for the poor, it raises huge questions about whether you are a Christian at all,” he says about pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor.
“As God’s spokespersons, you ought to be talking about God’s concern for the poor as much as God. In the richest nation in world history, it’s contradictory to have millions without health insurance.”
“It absolutely stinks”
The coverage gap may inspire a religious debate, but for its victims the issue is raw and personal.
A recent New York Times article about the coverage gap revealed that many of its victims are the working poor: cooks, cashiers, sales clerks and waitresses.
“These are people who are working people but they haven’t been able to afford health insurance or their employers don’t offer it and they’re stuck,” says Andy Miller, editor of Georgia Health News, a nonprofit news organization that covers health news in the state. “A lot of these folks have chronic health conditions.”
They are people like Shelley “Myra” Mitchell, a single mom with four children who makes $9 an hour working at a Chick-fil-A in Georgia. She makes $18,000 a year – too much for Georgia’s existing Medicaid program, but not enough to qualify for subsidies to sign up for Obamacare’s insurance marketplace in Georgia.
Mitchell’s voice grew edgy with frustration when asked to describe her health needs. She rang up about $20,000 in emergency room bills because she has no health insurance. She can’t afford to get pap smears, go to the dentist or get surgery for a two-year-old hernia. She can’t take medication for her depression and anxiety because she can’t afford it.
She thought she could get help under Obamacare but recently learned she can’t because Georgia did not accept the law’s Medicaid expansion.
“It stinks,” she says. “I’ve been dealing with this hernia for two years now, and I can’t get anyone to help me because I don’t have health insurance. It absolutely stinks.”
Why pastors should stay silent about the coverage gap
Mitchell’s plight may stink. But at what point should a pastor go public on such a complex issue, and what could he or she actually say?
Two prominent evangelical pastors openly wrestled with those questions.
Andy Stanley is one of the most popular evangelical pastors in the nation. He is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, a megachurch with at least 33,000 members. He is also the author of the forthcoming book “How to be Rich,” which urges Christians to be "rich in good deeds" instead of wealth. His church recently announced that it donated $5.2 million to Atlanta charities and provided another 34,000 volunteer hours.

Joel Osteen has the largest church in America. He also declined to speak about the coverage gap.
Stanley says the coverage gap disturbs him. The church cannot handle the needs of millions of uninsured people alone and should quit taking shots at government involvement, he says. But he adds that it’s not anti-Christian for political leaders in states like Georgia to turn down the Medicaid expansion for the poor.
“If you really want to know how concerned someone is for the poor ask them what percentage of their personal money they give to organizations that help the poor,” he says. “Ask them how much time they give to organizations that help the poor.”
Stanley says it would be difficult for any pastor to talk about the Medicaid expansion without addressing the entire law.
“I tried to imagine a scenario where I urged people to write our governor encouraging him to reconsider his decision regarding the expansion of Medicaid for the poor,” he says. “As I imagined that, I got the feeling that by the time I finished explaining the issue, people’s eyes would be glazed over.”
Pastors who don't preach one way or the other on Medicaid expansion aren't callous or apathetic, says Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. They may be suspicious of a bigger government and skeptical of whether this move will solve the problem.
“The Bible calls on Christians to answer the cries of the poor,” he says. “All Christians must do that. The question of the Medicaid expansion is a question of how we do that. I don’t hear many people arguing that we shouldn’t care about the plight of the poor when it comes to medical care. The question is a genuine debate about the role of the state.”
Moore says some people have a “utopian view” of what state power can accomplish.
“Government programs sometimes encourage dependency, unintentionally break down family structures, and become unsustainable financially,” Moore says.
Bob Coy, pastor of Calvary Chapel megachurch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wondered aloud about what he could, and should, say.
Florida, which has the second highest number of people without health insurance behind Texas, has not accepted the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
Coy says he hasn’t spoken publicly about poor people missing health coverage in Florida. But he has called the governor to get more information.
“I’m not an activist guy. I don’t tell the government what to do. I am a church guy. I teach the Bible.”
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care for the poor, though, Coy says. He grew up in a poor family that couldn’t afford to go to the dentist. His church also spends a large percentage of its budget on serving the poor.
Coy says he is suspicious of large-scale programs that are publicly funded because they are often abused.
“One side of our society is saying, 'We need this,' while on the other side is saying, 'This isn’t fair and isn’t going to work.’ So how should a pastor, who has a heart to help people, respond?”
Why pastors should speak out
The Rev. Shane Stanford’s answer to Coy is simple: Talk about justice for the poor like Jesus did.
Stanford is the senior pastor of Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis and author of “Five Stones: Conquering Your Giants.”
He is also HIV-positive. He was born a hemophiliac and contracted the virus when he was 16 during treatment for his illness.
Stanford says he publicly speaks out about the millions of Americans stranded without health coverage because he knows how it feels. Once, after heart surgery, he was getting a transfusion when a nurse came into the room and pulled the needle out of his arm because she said he had maxed out his health insurance coverage.
He says standing up for people in the coverage gap is a matter of justice.
“Sometimes pastors have to tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”
Stanford ignores fellow pastors who counsel him to be silent about his state and others that refused to accept the Medicaid expansion.
“They say you have to be careful talking about political issues,” he says. “When I look at their lives, part of me thinks they never had that needle yanked out of their arm.”
Conservative pastors who urge their colleagues to avoid politics are hypocrites, says James Cone, a prominent theologian who has spent much of his career writing books condemning white churches for what he says is their indifference to social justice.
“When their own interests are involved, they are very much involved in politics,” Cone says. “Same-sex marriage and abortion – they have no trouble politically opposing them.”
Cone, a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, says a nation is defined by how it treats its most vulnerable members. But there is an entrenched hostility to poor people in America that goes unchallenged by some white, conservative Christians, he says.
“When poor people get food stamps, they get mad,” Cone says. “When the rich and corporations get tax breaks and pay no taxes, they don’t say anything.”
McDonald, the pastor who spoke out on behalf of poor people from his Atlanta church, says Jesus provided universal health care. The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus healing marginalized people.
“He did it for free,” McDonald says of Jesus’ healing. “The reason the crowds gathered around Jesus primarily was for healing. People want wholeness.”
Perhaps the gap between Bible Belt pastors who say nothing about the uninsured poor and those who do is also rooted in history. 
Conservative Christians have traditionally emphasized providing charity to the poor - soup kitchens, donations to impoverished people in undeveloped countries - while progressive Christians have blended charity with calls for public policy changes that help the poor.
The distinction between both approaches was distilled by a memorable quote from the late Brazilian Roman Catholic Bishop Dom Helder Camara, who said: "When I feed the poor they call me a saint. When I ask why so many people are poor they call me a communist."
That may be changing as a new generation of evangelicals rise in the Bible Belt and elsewhere. One minister who speaks to them is the Rev. Timothy Keller, a conservative Christian author who pastors a megachurch in New York.
Keller is the author of “Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just,” a popular book that argues that evangelicals should do more than preach personal salvation; they must “speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.” He is a role model for many younger evangelicals.
“God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.’ ’’ recently contacted Keller to see if he would talk about "Generous Justice" and how it might apply to health care and the poor. Did he think pastors in Bible Belt states should say anything publicly on behalf of poor people being denied basic medical insurance? His publicist said she would contact Keller with the request.
Several days later, she returned with Keller’s answer.
He had no comment. 

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

Another Gunman in Another Mall in Another Shooting Incident in New Jersey

Lost in the rather boring news cycle of the 2013 November election results was yet another shooting incident, this time in Governor Christie's New Jersey.  

This particular gun violence incident was given rather routine news coverage. Indeed, the election of the New York City mayoral candidate Bill DiBlasio was given more headline coverage than the potential for another mass shooting incident in a busy New Jersey shopping mall. Although the perpetrator of the incident was later found dead with a self inflicted gun shot wound, his reign of terror was captured on emergency E911 calls from horrified victims.

As terrifyingly routine as gun violence incidents are becoming in America's culture, it'll only take one more in New Jersey to expose Governor Christie's avid support for unbridled Second Amendment rights. Although Governor Christie won re-election based upon his leadership after Hurricane Sandy's devastation, a mass killing in any sector of New Jersey could turn public opinion against him faster than a storm surge wiped out Atlantic City's Boardwalk.  

Gun supporters can squawk all they want about more rather than less guns. In fact, nothing can prepare innocent people against the sheer randomness of murderer with a gun. Yet, there's a way for all gun violence to be eliminated, although Governor Christie ignores this cause and effect. His  political instincts are astutely tuned into those who support Second Amendment rights in spite of how many innocent people are murdered as a result of gun violence. Nevertheless, Governor Christie is also a "pro-life Republican". (Where's that international reporter who asked President Obama how he could be the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize but support an act of war against Syria, even though his intention was to prevent genocide by the Assad regime?) How can Governor Christie be pro-life and oppose any life saving limits on Second Amendment Rights?  

Therefore, I'll be the blogger to pose this question to Governor Christie, before there's another gun violence incident in New Jersey.  

Dear Governor Chris Christie, congratulations on your re-election as governor of New Jersey. How do you intend to reconcile your support for pro-life issues and Second Amendment rights?  

Please answer this question before there's yet another preventable gun violence incident in New New Jersey.

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