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Sunday, January 01, 2006

NEW YEAR GREETINGS TO THE WORKING CLASS AND THE POOR; FROM YOUR PRESIDENT AND ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES

Sources for the following post:
(1) Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize winning syndicated columnist based in
Washington, D.C. Houston Chronicle, Sun. Jan.1, 2006, pg. E-3

(2) E.J. Dionne, Jr., op-ed columnist for the Washington Post, Tues. Dec.
27,2005 "When the Cutting is Corrupted". To view the entire article,
see Granny's post Wed. Dec.28, 2005 and click on title link,
"Balancing the Budget". It is worth the read.

(3) Leonard Steinhorn, teaches politics and media at American
University, board member of History News Network. To view the
entire article, click on http://hnn.us/articles/15043.html
scroll down to "What Katrina tells us about Mr. Bush's Philosophy of
Government", Leonard Steinhorn.It is a short article but also well
worth the read.

In a previous post mention was made that at the end of President Clinton's term of office, the nation's budget was well in the black, programs assisting the poor and the working class were attending the health and education of the most vulnerable citizens, and employment was in order. The nation prospered.

By the beginning of President Bush's second term, the national budget was billions in the red, benefits were being cut to the nation's needy, manufacturing and service jobs were outsourced to other countries, unemployment rates were kept low due to artful juggling of statistics and the fact that once prosperous workers had by necessity taken low paying positions just to survive, we had suffered catastrophic disasters, and our country was embroiled in a very costly war.

Now that America is facing trillions of dollars of debt, our leaders scramble to find ways to cut expenses. Do they opt to cut short the deadly and costly war we are in? Do they repeal the tax cuts Bush generously awarded the rich and which cost the nation billions in lost revenue? To maintain America's defense capability, do they vote to modernize and upgrade existing war machinery instead of building new weaponry?

Ofcourse not.

Instead, they target the American poor's health programs, the overburdened working class, the students who strive for betterment through education but can't afford cash out of pocket university tuition, our veterans who served their country well but who needs them now?, and the elderly, once productive citizens but now old and useless.

Vice President Cheny "cast the tie-breaking vote on a budget that would trim federal spending, mostly from popular social programs. ...Senate Republican leaders were puffed up with pride over trims they managed to impose ...on the growth of such programs as Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans." (1)

Student grants differ from student loans. Grants, that have been greatly curtailed the last few years, are free programs that do not have to be repaid. Student loans, on the other hand, are exactly that -- loans that must be re-paid by a set time table after the student graduates and is gainfully employed. Anyone who has checked the cost of a college education lately knows the tuition and fees are beyond the financial capabilities of the poor and of most middle class families. Loans allow bright, motivated young people to further their education and move up in society.

"Student loans are a true investment in enterprising students and the future of our economy."(1) College educated individuals usually enjoy a greater income and thus pay more taxes, spend more, and pour more money into the economy.They are more likely to become financially successful and to rear children who will also be upwardly mobile. It is false economy to cut opportunities for advanced education.Yet the "biggest savings, $12.7 billion over five years, come from (cutting) student loan programs."(1)

Medicare is a federal-state health program primarily for senior citizens.The government charges insurance premiums for this health program. The premium has been raised to $88 per month for 2006. The deductible for hospitalization can be as much as $900 , and co-pays for doctor visits vary. Seniors whose income falls below poverty levels can get state subsidized assistance to a certain extent, called Medicaid. Medicaid also assists the poor of all ages.

Medicare and Medicaid benefits have already been decreased the last few years. More cuts are in order and this new federal budget calls for "increased copayments and premiums for a net five year savings of an estimated $6.4 billion."(1) That is $6.4 billion out of the pockets of senior citizens, retirees living on fixed incomes, many subsisting on social security.

The budget cuts made by our elected representatives in Washington "hammered Medicaid recipients with $16 billion in gross cuts over the next decade."(2) "States also will be allowed to scale back some Medicaid benefits, while tightening eligibility for Medicaid nursing home reimbursement. Net five year savings: $4.8 billion."(1)

This cost cutting bill "does less to reduce the deficit than to shift its burden to the shoulders of poor and middle class folks, who...need help with paying for a nursing home or putting their kids through college....Nursing home aid has become a last-ditch help to many middle-class familes. Yet at a time of rising costs, Congress has put the budget-cutting knife to these ...programs."(1) In past generations families cared for their dependent elders at home. Now, living costs demand that both husband and wife work, some holding down two jobs , and home care for an aged relative is impossible.What are they supposed to do? Abandon the elders by the wayside to perish, as some primitive tribes were wont to do?

Cutting health benefits to the poor seemingly would require them to cover the lost benefits with out of pocket payments. Raising their copayments and premiums would necessitate even more personal expenditures. When income levels are so low that every dime is needed to pay for basic necessities of life - housing, food, clothing - there is no extra money to pay increased medical costs. Often choices must be made: food or medicine, rent or doctor bills.Yet, " according to the New York Times, Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tx)...said the increased copayments were needed to 'encourage personal responsibility' among low income people."(2)

Apparently Congress believed that placing these hardships on the poor would result in great savings to the budget. Dionne says that Kevin Freking of the Associated Press reported, "The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that such increases would lead many poor people to forego health care or not to enroll in Medicaid at all...contributing to some of the $4.8 billion in Medicaid savings envisioned over the next five years."(2) Is this the logic of people elected to represent the people? By pricing health care costs beyond the budget of poor people, they would forgo it and thereby present a cost cutting factor of $4.8 billion?

So what are the poor to do? Die from lack of medical care, or find another avenue to obtain it. Some will do without. Some will opt for another source of help as many do now: they will go to local city/county hospitals' Emergency Rooms for treatment. Instead of the Medicaid cost of a clinic visit, the state or county taxpayers will have to foot a $600 to $700 -plus Emergency Room bill. State law requires that all patients be treated and stabilized, regardless of ability to pay. Nationwide hospitals operate in the red because of so many people using the Emergency Rooms like a doctor's office or clinic. But that is the states' problem, not the federal government.

Our fearless leaders in Washington struggled valiantly to trim the budget by $39.7 billion during the next five years at the expense of the nation's most needy and vulnerable, while at the same time Bush's most recent tax cuts to the wealthy awards $70 billion in capital gains tax cuts for mostly upper-income earners and investors.

"The national government has placed itself squarely on the side of the wealthy, the privileged and the connected....When choices have to be made, the interests of the poor and middle class fall before the wishes of interest groups with powerful lobbies and awesome piles of campaign money to distribute."(2)

It is no wonder that the majority of the Bush administration has so little regard for the common citizens. They apparently echo the President's attitude towards the poor and the marginally successful of the people. According to Steinhorn, "Bush conservatism is built on a fundamental cultural narrative ... that success is a sign of virtue, and anything less, particularly poverty, can be explained only through a character flaw."(3)

"It's a ...view coded into the Bush and Reagan tax cuts, which showered money on the super wealthy under the assumption that these are the real people who know how to build America. Those with money...contribute more to our nation's health than those who merely work. They, the rich, have wisdom and virtue.

"And because those who aren't successful must be responsible for their lack of success, it's no business of government to be there for them.Thus the President tries to privatize social security and cut other benefits - he calls it an 'ownership society', but in real life that translates to an 'on your own society'. If you don't properly prepare for your future, you have only yourself to blame."(3)

More on that note in another post.

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