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Advertise on the Tentacle

January 6, 2011

The News Tells All

Patricia A. Kelly

There’s a recession going on. As the year 2011 begins, individuals and governments continue to feel serious financial pressure.


Still, the U.S. government felt the need to throw the middle class a bone, the temporary 2% reduction in Social Security withholding for 2011. Our government is so tight for money that, according to some, we will have to default on some bills if we don’t raise the legal debt ceiling. Current projections regarding insolvency of the Social Security Trust Fund say it should occur in 2040.


Small businesses are still going under, double-digit unemployment persists, and real estate values continue to slide downward. Still, the government is giving the break to those who have jobs and are getting along okay. Could this be politically motivated? Does this make sense to anyone?


Recent news stories indicate that about 30,000 bills were passed at the state level across the country last year. Yes, that’s 30,000. A lot of work hours funded by taxpayers went into that. I wonder if any were repealed.


State and U.S. parks are experiencing delayed maintenance due to recession-related budget cuts. Historic buildings are falling down. Areas are being closed.


The January 1, 2011, New York Times article “The Vanishing Mind: Giving Alzheimer’s Patients Their Way, Even Chocolate” chronicles the story of the Beatitudes Nursing Home in Phoenix, AZ. In this rather dilapidated facility, Alzheimer’s patients are allowed to eat, sleep and bathe when they want, even in the middle of the night. Restraints and bedrails have been removed with beds lowered and padded when necessary to prevent injury. People are allowed to eat foods they like, even bacon and chocolate, rather than being restricted to the classic low fat, low salt, bland nursing home diet. People are given activities reminiscent of what they liked to do before they were ill. One man re-packs his fishing tackle box every day. An elderly mom was given a baby doll, which she carries everywhere with her. Sedation was generally eliminated, but pain medication increased as needed. Staff is there 24/7 after all, so why not?


There were big problems with state regulators about all this. What about group activities such as bingo? How demeaning for an adult to be given a doll! No matter that the patients are awake and calm, and can get chocolate if they want it. How many studies do we need to indicate that this makes sense?


Senator James Inhofe (R., OK) is very interested in mounting a big investigation into last year’s global warming hoax, duplicating any criminal investigations that may be out there. Wonder how politically motivated he is in this, and what it will cost. Do any of the people who take care of their houses, cars, clothes and bodies think we should not be conserving resources and taking care of our planet, and maybe planning ahead for when we run out of oil?


After a very complicated series of passes and punts, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was finally repealed. I never heard mentioned the long standing military regulations against any kind of sexual activity when in a combat setting, such as during deployment on an aircraft carrier. I’ve rarely heard of anyone whose sexual predilections were not at least suspected by those around them. People of all different cultures and religions and skin colors were already allowed to serve, so what was the big fuss about. After all, we’re all being defended by the same military force.


There’s a lot of talk at the federal level about eliminating the charitable donation deduction from the tax code, of all possible deductions to eliminate in these difficult times. It would actually be wonderful if it was part of a move toward a flat tax. Think how much money would be saved if even charities and churches were taxed, no one had to prove anything. The IRS could be reduced in size to a couple of dozen employees and several powerful computers. Our economy would be market based rather than government manipulated, and we could all buy houses or have children because we wanted to instead of because of tax deductions.


Last September District 3A and 4A House of Delegate races were decided by than fewer than 10 votes in the Republican primary. Popular Delegate Paul Stull was defeated, and a number of his supporters were heard to say they didn’t vote because they were so sure he would win again.


State Senators David Brinkley and E.J. Pipkin presented an alternate budget proposal last year, stating that voters are looking for solutions. One thing they suggested was looking at changing pension plans for state employees, who are among the few groups in our country who still have them, and who are unionized and make more than non-government employees. Can you imagine objecting to considering this?


House of Representatives Republicans plan to start the session by voting to repeal the 2010 Health Care Reform Law. The Senate, with a continued Democratic majority of 53 to 47, should be able to prevent successful repeal, but the fight doesn’t appear to be over. This bill is so long and convoluted that the entire picture of it is very difficult to understand. It clearly fails to address medical-cost issues, the ordering of tests for the insured that don’t seem necessary for the uninsured. It doesn’t address the fact that most insured people have no idea how much their medical treatment costs, and that cash payment of a medical bill generally costs more than insurance payment of the same bill. If medical insurance were insurance in the same sense as is car insurance, and people paid their own preventive care, and employees received a pay increase in lieu of medical insurance, the whole system might improve.


Locally, four of the five county commissioners are pushing for removal of pension benefits for their position. This is an interesting idea, and, certainly, providing a lifetime of medical coverage after two terms in office sounds extreme. It might be interesting to consider 401K matching, like the rest of the world, but complete elimination of benefits might stop people of modest means from serving.


This brings up again the question of term limits. It appears the original intent of our Founding Fathers was for people to leave their regular jobs to serve for a short time and then return to civilian life. But now we have multiple long-term representatives, whom we keep re-electing. Barbara Mikulski is being honored for being the longest-serving woman in U. S. Senate history. Is this a good thing?


It would be really interesting to see what would happen if our leaders, and ourselves, considered opening ourselves to true change in the way we run our system.


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