The OMG Healthcare Saga

With the passage of the president’s new budget plan in the House, combined with his proposed tax reform, our country might soon experience one of the biggest Oh My God healthcare moments ever. At the same time, the tax reform proposal favors tax cuts for the wealthy. Tax cuts that have to be offset by cuts somewhere else. So, the new budget proposes significant cuts to entitlement programs.



Proposed Entitlement Cuts

Consequently, the loss in income generated from taxes on the wealthy will be offset by reductions in entitlement programs that millions of people depend upon to stay financially solvent and healthy. If these budget cuts are passed, the burden for caring for the neediest in our country will be placed on insurance companies in the private sector. My best guess is that health insurance premiums will blow up, especially for those with preexisting conditions. And if the president wins, federal funds to Planned Parenthood will be cut as well.

So, while it is very obvious who benefits from the proposed tax reform for many of us, most in Congress argue that the tax cuts for the wealthy will increase business spending on hiring as business owners ramp up for further investments in growing their business. But, will the same thing happen this time as it did with Reaganomics? Will the increase in GDP be modest because profits from investments are not reinvested? 

Who Loses?

It will be those who can least afford even a modicum of financial loss who will suffer the most. It will be the opioid addicts that Trump promised to help who will no longer have access to free methadone treatments. And the expectant mother struggling to keep herself and her baby alive during a high risk pregnancy.

Many lower income students will no longer be able to afford college because of the proposed cuts to federal student loans. Teachers and other public servants like me can forget about student loan forgiveness. And, for those in the lower income brackets, a 2% increase in their tax rate can mean having to choose between paying the rent or putting food for the family on the table.

Those over the age of 65 will suffer the most. Medicare has meant they can afford their prescriptions, treatments for illness and chronic conditions, and wellness visits. There are many whose only source of income is their Social Security, already being cut, or SSI disability check. Many Boomers, not able to qualify for any of these options, pray every day that they can stay healthy long enough to qualify for these benefits at the age of 65. That is because many have dropped their insurance coverage because they can no longer afford it. And there will be cuts for children’s federally funded health insurance along with cuts in family emergency services..


The OMG Moment

Will Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare be so underfunded that many Boomers will be forced to rely on their own children to survive? For the losers in this political game, cuts to entitlement programs with tax increases for the poor will create one big OMG moment as we begin to wonder how we got to that point. Especially considering that the proposed tax program benefits those who already have more than they could hope for anyway. We should all hope that Congress wakes up and comes up with a better bipartisan plan before they make a mistake that could ensure the Republican Party’s untimely demise.





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How Many Massacres is Too Many?

As we’ve watched the tragedy unfold in Las Vegas this weekend I’ve wondered; how many massacres is too many? My cousin was in the theatre in Aurora, Colorado in 2012 when a shooter with an automatic weapon entered through the Exit door and started firing his gun indiscriminately. She hit the ground, then ran for the exit when the gunman stopped to reload his weapon. But she turned around to attempt to rescue the youngest victim, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, who had been separated from her mom and was calling out for her in vain. Her mom was in the next aisle on the floor, dead.

By the time my cousin reached the child, she had been shot. She watched her fall. My cousin said she still has nightmares of the girl lying there, as her eyes rolled back in her head. And my 19-year-old cousin, also a young mother, felt helpless remorse and anger. At the same time, she was determined to not be the shooter’s next victim. So when he turned his back, she made her escape.

The disastrous tragedy that transpired this weekend in Las Vegas was far worse, with the most victims in this country ever claimed by a mass shooter. The Las Vegas gunman had  a small arsenal of automatic rifles. One was trained on thousands of innocent concert goers 32 floors below his perch in his room in the Mandalay Bay Resort. With the weapons he had and the proximity of the individuals in the crowd, there was no need to be a marksman. So dozens of people were murdered en masse. Hundreds more were injured as the shootings continued for about fifteen minutes.

All of the weapons in the shooter’s arsenal were purchased legally. This was not a horrendous tragedy perpetrated by terrorists. There is still speculation as to why the shooter did what he did. But, for me, the bigger question is how many times this country has to experience such massacres before we take automatic weapons out of the hands of civilians? NRA be damned! What can you do with military weaponry as a civilian? Go hunting?



The President Uses the NFL to Create Another Divisive Tide

The president has created another divisive tide around an NFL controversy he resurrected involving protests and black players. Most African Americans have no problem with the flag and our national anthem at sporting venues. They represent solidarity, and remind us of those who died for our nation.

What we, and the protesting players, have an issue with is the president of the United States using his bully pulpit to incite further divisiveness in this country. What we, as African Americans, are struggling with is the New Jim Crow, where black lives no longer seem to matter.

Ever heard of monopsony? It’s an economic term that means there is no one individual who possesses the same set of skills each player contributes to his team. So, suggesting that these young black men be fired would mean the financial ruin of the NFL and the NBA, which is 74% black.

And how is it that white supremacists, conducting violent, xenophobic, and racist protest can be “good people”? But men, of all races, who conduct peaceful protest are “sons of bitches”!

Bravo ESPN for stating they will show both the national anthem and the NFL Unity Ad during Monday Night Football! My hat goes off to the NFL, because they obviously understand that unity supersedes race on any playing field.

So, mr. president, what’s it going to be? Do you want to see 70% of the NFL players fired? Because that’s how many of them are black. Furthermore, shouldn’t you be more focused on our citizens in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands caught in the aftermath of another earthquake right now?

Again, Why All The Hoopla About Healthcare Reform?

Again, I must ask why all the hoopla about getting healthcare reform passed before September thirtieth when Obamacare is suppose to be “imploding” anyway?  I get the concern about limited access and availability.

I had an Obamacare subsidized plan once, until I was able to get a job that offers a “stipend” to help defray some of the cost of health insurance. Only problem with my subsidized insurance was that none of the listed providers I called for an appointment had even heard of the insurance company. So, I never had the opportunity to find out if it was worth the expense.

But, the Republican plan would offer HSAs. And HSAs are a pretax deduction, for now. What about those who have no disposable income to contribute to an HSA? Besides, under this president, the HSA tax incentive could easily change.

Now that Bernie Sanders has submitted his proposal for Medicare For All I find the Republican efforts at tax reform ludicrous and a waste of time. Why should I back a plan that only gaurantees access.? In my mind, Congress is asking me to go back to what I couldn’t afford before Obamacare.

The only difference now is that I would most likely be penalized for letting the insurance I couldn’t afford before lapse. Being single and living off a teacher’s salary, I would probably have to settle on no insurance at all until I could qualify for Medicare.

So should we support the Republican health care insurance reform, even though many can’t afford it? Or push for Medicare for All? Sure BernieCare will result in tax increases. But the heaviest share of the burden could be assumed by the One Percent. That’s how it works everywhere else. Like Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. I don’t hear them complaining. And let’s not forget Cuba, one of our closest neighbors. How is it they can afford the best healthcare system in the world, but we can’t?

The new Republican version would gaurantee access and strip Medicaid, while offering tax incentives for those making over $250,000 per year. Then there’s BernieCare. Medicare for All offers, not just access to healthcare insurance; it gaurantees affordable insurance for all Americans regardless of income. So I ask you again, America. Why all the hoopla on healthcare reform? Seems to me the obvious best choice is BernieCare.

A Presidential Decision Worth Supporting

In an effort to get a political victory, Trump has made a presidential decision I can finally support. A compromise has been made to establish a path to citizenship for Dreamers who were brought to America as undocumented citizens by their parents. It will include an agreement to beef up security on the southern border.

In his compromise with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer, Trump basically flipped the finger at the Republican Congress that was ready to do whatever they could to push a bill on the wall through the House and Senate. So, no border wall despite the president’s campaign promises. At least not for now.

Of course this decision was met with outrage from some of the president’s staunchest supporters. Ann Coulter’s conservative commentaries, editorials, and best-selling books resonate with the president’s far right supporters. They are outraged at Trump’s revelation to forego the border wall for now in lieu of increased security. Coulter unapologetically used the president’s favorite social media platform, Twitter, to express her displeasure with his declaration. She went so far as to wonder who doesn’t want Trump impreached now?

Jeff Sessions accepted the position of Attorney General and he promised to do whatever he could, within his power, to ensure the wall was built. And he continued to stand by Trump from the beginning of his presidential campaign until now. Even though the president has openly belittled him in front of Congress and the American public. I wonder how Sessions is feeling now? Most likely, betrayed.

All in all, I must say this is a day for celebration within the Democratic Party. And many of the Dreamers are probably heaving an immense sigh of relief. If he doesn’t backtrack, as the president often does, then the Dreamers can stay in the country they call home. They can continue to grow and contribute to our country without having to worry about being separated from their families and deported. If this compromise becomes a reality, the Mexican president no longer has to insist that his country will not help pay for the border wall. And, for once I will be able to say “Good job Mr. President!”


Five Reasons Why Human Activity Has Caused More Hurricanes

Many are beginning to question if there is any correlation between the recent hurricanes and climate change. Although there is no evidence that there is a direct connection between the two, meteorologists at Time online point to five reasons hurricanes have been more frequent and grown in strength. And they argue that climate change has been a contributing factor based on the following observations:

  1. Hot Air – The primary reason for the increase in hurricane activity is an increase in global temperatures resulting from industrialization.
  2. Warm Water – The rise in air temperature has caused the temperature of water to rise as well. Hurricanes are fueled by warm water.
  3. Dangerous Currents – There is s natural rhythm in the rise and fall of temperatures called the AMO, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Climate change has disrupted this rhythm, causing a longer and more active hurricane season than expected. Consequently, warmer currents are being driven by the Gulf Stream towards more populated areas.
  4. Deep Oceans – The rise in water temperature has caused the polar caps to melt, resulting in rising water levels. This results in higher storm surges on coastal areas.
  5. Clear Skies – Ironically, the effort to clean up emissions caused by industrialization has been successful. That has created clear skies and warmer temperatures. It is also argued that the 70% decrease in emissions, resulting from recent regulations, outweighs the damage caused by not regulating emissions.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research has confirmed that the Atlantic Ocean normally experiences fluctuations in temperature over time. This results in cycles of increases and decreases in hurricane activity. But, there is an indirect correlation between human activity and the impactful hurricanes we are seeing in Florida and what we saw in Texas. All the more reason to question the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.



The Dreamers’ Nightmare

The fact that the president decided to announce he has come to a decision about DACA during one of our country’s most devastating natural disasters has turned the hopeful vision for the future of many Dreamers into a tormenting nightmare. I wonder if Trump considered the impact this could have on those Dreamers who live and work in the area impacted by hurricane Harvey. According to Pew Research, of the 800,000 Dreamers on record, 121,000 live in Texas. So again I ask, what was the president thinking?

I have read too many heart wrenching accounts about those who will be affected by this decision should the president move forward with dismantling DACA. The biggest concern evolves around the fear that immigration officials will use the information garnered against those who willfully registered as undocumented citizens. These are people who were brought, by their parents, to this country as children illegally. But this is the only country many of them will ever know. Now they not only face the prospect of losing access to education and jobs, they might be deported to a country they have little, if any, ties to.

Trump has always been an opportunist. That is how he was able to build such a signficant real estate empire. Did he consider this his opportunity to take another jab at his predecessor? It is more than obvious that dismantling anything Obama created was and still is at the top of Trump’s agenda. Even though he is surrounded by others who disagree with his desire to dismantle DACA, that does not seem to be a dissuading factor for this president.

Fortunately, this president does not operate in a vacuum, and the cries for help from many of the Dreamers after his announcement has not gone unheard. Many Republican members of Congress are urging the president to reconsider. They embrace the benefits DACA renders because it gives members of our society a way to give back to a country that has given so much to them. Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, has been joined by others in an effort to save DACA and give those recipients an avenue to pursue permanent and legal residence here should they choose to stay.

As an Independent, I have had little to say about the divided partisanship in our Congress. But, for once I agree with the Speaker and others who believe that the president’s pandering to his base and his obsession with his predecessor are not serving our country well. Nor does his decision to dismantle DACA represent those ideals upon which our country was founded.

Taking advantage of a natural disaster the scope of Harvey in an effort to quickly get DACA dismantled causes me to question Trump’s humanity. We, the people, cannot allow the Dreamers’ hopes for the future to turn into the nightmare they could have never anitcipated. We should also give special consideration to those unfortunate enough to have lost everything to Harvey in the wake of the president’s announcement. The angst those Dreamers must be experiencing is incomprehensible.

Persevering Through the Quagmire

I’m caught in a quagmire of lesson and curriculum planning. Along with the other responsibilities associated with the first couple of weeks of school. I have two classrooms/computer labs in two different locations. I’m  teaching kindergarten through eighth grade Computer Applications classes. But the experience of watching the students acquire computer skills over the next ten months, that can be applied across the curriculum, is well worth the challenges that will undoubtedly ensue.

If this sounds at all familiar, I guess that makes Perseverance the word for the day.  Perseverance is a word used often in the classroom. Children are taught that learning requires that they continue to work through what might seem very tough challenges. Only then, can they experience the benefits that perseverance affords.

We all get caught in a quagmire at some point in our lives. A mire of challenges that only seem to engulf us, no matter how hard we try to escape or resolve them. But with a focused analysis of what went wrong, coupled with what went right, we can find a semblance of balance between the order and chaos by using good old stick-to-itness. Or, perseverance.

The New Faces of the Inner City Classroom

Like most teachers, I look forward to the new year. But I sometimes dread looking into the eyes of the new faces in my inner city classroom. I dread it because I can see the stories of years of trepidations written across their entire countenance like a byline in an outdated magazine. Then I anxiously anticipate many other things.

Like, do they have any computer applications background? Are they victims of the Digital Divide that plagues so many of the urban schools? Do they speak English? But more importantly, how will I gain the trust of so many students from backgrounds so different than my own?

My new assignment will be in a school that is seventy percent Yemeni, fifteen percent Bangladesh, and fifteen percent African American. This new population shares very little in common with the students I taught in Denver who were primarily Hispanic, and where Spanish was the first language spoken for forty percent of them.

In fact, many of my students in Denver were not allowed to speak English at home. And I can understand why. How would you know if your own children weren’t plotting something behind your back if they’re speaking a language you can’t understand? And, that’s what kids do. No matter where they come from.

IMG_0213I know enough about Yemen to know that it’s a country that has been under civil, social, and political strife since the late 1990’s. Once a united Yemen split between it’s respective factions, the country became fertile territory for Al Qaeda infiltration. The struggle between the various factions has forced many out of their homes, and some of those very children will be sitting in my inner city classroom. Once victims of conflict, they are now victims of circumstances beyond their control because they are faced with as much uncertainty here in America as they faced back home.

Unfortunately, the timeline for Bangladesh is wrought with conflict as well. From the time they were liberated from British rule, to the time they fought to be free from Pakistan. Since then, they have been under parliamentary rule. That has lasted over twenty years, along with it’s high rate of poverty. On the other hand, the land is lush with vegetation and the scenery is magnificent.

I was fortunate to be able to teach summer school to a class of Yemeni students, so I promised myself that I would start the year off with blank stickies in strategic places in the classroom, like my computer, so I can learn Arabic from the kids. And, fortunately, the Bangladesh students were raised speaking both their native language and English. So, some of them speak better English than some of the African American students do. Thank God the students in Detroit have English Language Acquisition as part of their required curriculum for all grade levels.

But one good thing about being a Computer Applications teacher, or “specials” teacher, computers have a universal language of their own. And no matter the language and cultural barriers that exist between my students, computers and technology are something they all share common experiences around. And I’m excited to take on the challenge of bringing these children, from kindergarten through eighth grade, together. By offering them the opportunity to learn to communicate effectively and to share their varied experiences through the use of technology.

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