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Veterans Focus on “Health for Life” during 2016 – VA Patient Centered Care

Feature story on the Gulf Coast VA HCS Health for Life event, Veterans Day 2016

Source: Veterans Focus on “Health for Life” during 2016 – VA Patient Centered Care

This letter was written and sent to the Roseburg OR “News Review, for publication in their ‘Public Forum” section of the paper September 11, 2016. As of September 17, 2016 it has been unpublished.

Veterans Forum 2016

The evening of September 7, 2016, I watched the “Forum” hosted by a reporter purportedly to be impartial to each candidate while questioning the candidates on their views on national defense and veteran’s health care issues. The former Secretary of State has a wide range of knowledge about the issues facing our country! This misdirected “Forum” did not afford her an opportunity to even present her views on the state of current international affairs except to point out that ISIS is actually using Mr. Trumps’ words as a recruiting tool (verified).

Veterans and active duty personnel, let us remember that it was a Democrat (former President W.J. Clinton) that EXPANDED the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to include ALL veterans, not just the Service Connected Disabled Veterans. In the same spirit of compassion, the health and welfare of the citizens of our United States was a priority of Hillary Clinton long before she became a national figure.

The VA’s trouble is not and was not the fault of the current administration. The basic faults are two-fold. The expansion of the VA system to take in ALL ex-military who had served the required time and not received a dishonorable release from active service overloaded the VA system. Then congress failed to fully fund the system in order to bring it up to standards. Finally, President Bush’s decision to expand the authorization to pursue the Taliban and their supporters by invading Iraq without a source to pay the expense of the incursion drained the Federal Budget.

The VA Medical Staffing took a direct hit when Bush was required to activate reserve and guard medical personnel to take care of those wounded in the invasion and the actions that followed. It’s time to elect congressional leaders who WILL correct this!

Can Our “Middle Class” Be Revived?

With the loss of the middle-class in the socio-economics of the United States a looming certainty, we can only ask ourselves, “What must happen to rejuvenate a meaningful atmosphere for all to live in?”
The “Middle Class” was (1) the outcome of a transition from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-manufacturing economy, (2) World War II and (3) the rise of Organized Labor during the next 3 decades.
The transition from agriculture to manufacturing caused a drastic shift in the way people lived. People moved from rural areas, where their closest neighbor might be miles away, to city living – stacked on top of each other – a condition that is still prevalent today.
Modern farming equipment, faster methods of transportation and the promise of a more steady income was the downfall of the “family farm.”
World War II not only pulled the United States out of a “Wall Street” and “top heavy wealth” inequality. It also brought the U.S.A. out of the Great Depression. While large segments of the male populations in industrialized worlds were involved in military operations, women were called upon to fill industrial-production vacancies. When the war ended and service men came home, they found their prior production jobs filled by females. That brought about another socio-economic shift – madam now working to add to the family’s income.
Many of those who were drafted or enlisted into the different branches of the military found their educations interrupted which produced a “hole” in their economic advancement. The answer to that problem was congressional legislation – the “G.I. Bill”- which provided funds to returning servicemen/women with which to complete their educations. Tied to the “G.I. Bill” was another “Middle-Class” improvement – U. S. Government-backed financing with which the G.I. could purchase a home.
While all of this was being accomplished, President Harry S. Truman reorganized the U. S. War Department into what is now known as the Department of Defense. This action removed the Air Corps from the Army and created a stand-alone U. S. Air Force. Going one-step farther, he de-segregated ALL of the Armed Services of the United States.
Low wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor and excessive working hours with inadequate compensation were the initial socio-economic problems Organized Labor focused on. Improving those conditions brought about the rise of a class of people who could expect that their families would have a home of their own, enough to eat, a proper education for their children and savings for retirement.
To once again build that same “Middle Class” will require strong socio-economic action by federal and state governments. To overcome today’s inequalities, we will need politicians who are not empowered by financial organizations and/or large corporations donating to their “war chests.” Welfare to corporations which use our highways, railroads and natural resources significantly while paying insignificantly in use taxes, and tax giveaways for companies to relocate or expand, must cease. Those same politicians should introduce a progressive income tax system which disallows entities at the top of the income level to pay a smaller percentage of their income in year-end taxes than the lower income tiers. Sadly, today, there is little hope for this.
This is my last Democratic Opinion Article for the Duncan Banner. I want to thank the Editor(s) for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions with you for the past three years and to my readers for your support! In the future, with the good graces of the Duncan Banner staff, the weekly Democratic Opinion Article will be furnished by Gary Reddin, Secretary of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Gary is well aware of the trials and concerns facing Oklahomans – from socio-economic inequalities to an inadequate criminal justice system to women‘s rights and beyond.
In preparing my weekly article, I must pay homage to those who assisted me in my endeavors. First, to Jack Guerkink – who is no longer with us – for his expertise and understanding of our “capitalist” system and its misuse by the powerful, and to my wife Koleta, who brought me back onto my intended path when I wandered in my writing!
Kenneth Wells 580-444-2563 twinnwells@gmail.com

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Has Our American “Middle Class” Disappeared

The phrase “Middle Class” is fast disappearing from both national, state and county political vocabularies. This should not be a surprise to any of us. Those that did consider themselves as “Middle Class” – with a family income that allowed them to live comfortably – are now “ordinary,” according to Senator Bernie Sanders. Senator Rand Paul defines them as “people who work for people who own businesses.” Many of us may consider ourselves “ordinary,” but individuals currently working two or more minimum wage jobs, under 20 hours per week, for $7.25 per hour consider themselves to be something other than Senator Paul’s definition. Indifference has now defined them as “those left behind.” The definition of “Middle Class” has long been evolving with politicians. It has ranged from “submerged middle class” to “nearly poor” to “the sandwich generation.” Today, our current Republican candidate hopefuls’ definitions are anything but poor. Yesterday, “Middle Class” defined the bulging middle segment of our population. It knew employment security, looked forward to their children attaining greater heights than their parents, usually had a savings account and were buying their own homes. In short, they were participating in a sustainable future. The strength of that American “Middle Class” grew rapidly with the expansion of the Labor Movement from the 1940’s into the 1970’s. Rather than “A chicken in every pot” during the Great Depression, the chant became “A car in every garage.” The Republican declaration that “Unions cause a loss of current jobs and keep new jobs from being created” has inspired our “red states” to pass “right to work laws” which obstruct attempts to organize workers and develop livable wages. With the stagnation of “Middle Class” wages, political theorists are now rethinking their definition of “middle-class” and “upper-middle class” wage earners.
A recent Gallup Poll indicates that 51% of Americans consider themselves to be in these two groups. With this majority, it is no wonder that our current Republican presidential candidates are not discussing today’s true financial inequality, developed during the last four decades through two attempts at “trickle down economics.” Reagan cut taxes. Too late, he raised them attempting to recoup the deficit he faced. Smiling all the while, Bush 43 let us sink into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
The idea that “Cutting taxes for the upper 10 percent will make more jobs” is lame. That 10% have the financial ability to spend without any more help. The people who do not have the financial ability to spend are those who cannot find employment or are barely surviving, working two plus jobs to keep their family together in our new “tax cuts for the wealthy”-“right to work”- environment.
To address the above fairly, blame for today’s inequalities in education, health, social welfare and financial stability does not entirely rest at the feet of the Republicans. There is enough blame to go around. It starts with the large numbers of adults who do not register to vote and is further exacerbated by those who are registered but do not vote. If those few thousand individuals who profess that, “My vote does not count” did in fact, vote, history would be made!

Together Tuesday Update: Forgotten Fourteen Winner and Budget Talking Points – twinnwells@gmail.com – Gmail

Together Tuesday Update: Forgotten Fourteen Winner and Budget Talking Points – twinnwells@gmail.com – Gmail.

Is Oklahoma’s Budget “Pie In The Sky”

Is Oklahoma’s Budget “Pie In The Sky”?
With sixteen days remaining in the 2015 legislative session, our representatives’ failure to negotiate a legitimate budget for Fiscal Year 2015-16 is baffling. So far, all they have even considered is to raid Oklahoma’s “Rainy Day Fund,” state agencies’ “Revolving Fund,” the state “Unclaimed Property Fund” and rework the formula for the “County Apportionment Fund.” Using these funds is extremely sloppy financial management and budgeting. Two of the four funds, “County Apportionment” (developed from motor vehicle taxes) and “Unclaimed Property” (moneys held in trust while owners are located) are fluid funds. Attempting to balance a budget with these dollars is selling a “pie in the sky” daydream. That same daydream saw Oklahoma running out of money while selling tax cuts over the last 6 years!
As reported by M. Scott Carter of Capitol Watch, “Oklahoma Representative Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville) indicated that these 4 funds would produce over half of the budget’s 611 Million Dollar projected shortfall and will definitely be used in the budgeting process.” Sears also indicated that the remainder of the shortfall would be gained by an approximate 7.25% cut in most state agency budgets.
By revamping the way counties receive funds from Oklahoma‘s $740,000,000+ “Apportionment Fund” (motor vehicle taxes) from an annual percentage to an annual fixed amount, Oklahoma’s government is “allowed” to reduce funds for repairing and replacing county roads and bridges. Instead, those dollars will now be used to balance the 2015-16 budget.
Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller opposes the RAID on the “Unclaimed Property Fund” because those dollars belong to individual Oklahomans the agency is trying to locate. The money comes in and goes out continually with no set schedule of distributed amounts or when unclaimed moneys are received.
When expectations for these funds fall short, one can only imagine how much and by what percentage agency budgets will be reduced even more. Any more cuts to health and education will only deepen the social services’ inequality Oklahomans are experiencing. (40% of Oklahomans are experiencing income levels at 200% below the federal poverty level of $24,250 for a family of four/$11,770 if single.)
The current law that is instrumental in the budget crisis (scheduled to become effective November 1, 2015) was not passed by a “super majority” in the legislature. Thus, it only seems reasonable that it would not take a “super majority” to repeal it. To prevent repeal, we have been told that to do so will raise our taxes. Not the case. What that “dollar-babble” does show us is how Republican legislators have been able to shift the perspective of Oklahoma’s citizens, causing them to believe that lower taxes solve everyone’s problems and create well paying jobs. Also note the case.
Poorly contrived in part, the Constitution of Oklahoma forces state and local government agencies to function on borrowed money. When the economy is on a sound basis, people have money to spend and oil and gas production is thriving, Oklahoma‘s debts are paid and life is good. What is “wrong with that picture” is that any government operating solely on sales taxes is in for a rollercoaster ride when trying to manage a budget. If one source of income is interrupted, the budget collapses. When that occurs, the first category looked at is social services (health and education) further widening the inequality divide of our citizenry. Because of the dedication of the teachers, Education is scraping by.
The most baffling within Oklahoma’s social services is the reason(s) Republicans adamantly refuse to expand Medicaid. The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Editorial of the Week quote by Teresa Meinders Burkett of The Tulsa World was priceless, “To some, the choice to accept Medicaid Expansion seems obvious. For those without health benefits, who are so sick they will wait hours in the emergency room for a temporary patch for a long term problem, an illness is every bit as much a personal disaster as a tornado that rips apart an uninsured home. Our state is quick to call for federal help after a tornado roars through. How is the personal disaster of a heart attack or a cancer diagnosis any different when it comes to accepting federal dollars that are available?”