I am angry….and scared.

Many of you read the new poverty statistics released last week both nationally and for each state.
“A report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the organization that studies the state of children throughout the world, found that the child poverty rate has jumped 18 percent from 2000 to 2009. Other reports now show that 49 percent of the nation’s children are growing up in families who qualify for help from the Women, Infants and Children program.”

In Oklahoma alone, 60% of the babies born in 2010 were born on Medicaid! Almost 20% of the state population has NO insurance. 1 in 3 children grow up in homes of parents under age 30 who are below the federal level of poverty.

And we worry about education, obesity, taxes (68% of Oklahomans want taxes lowered by the Legislature in 2012 even if it means FEWER government services)! If you have read my prior blogs, you know I have been focusing on some of these issues as well.

Clearly, I, too, have missed the boat!  How can we worry about obesity when all families can afford is mac-and-cheese. Even those of us supporting church and community food pantries are personally limited to high carb and high calorie donations.  I’ve worried about the quality of education offered our children or families that don’t get their kids to school and help with homework. What about the child who simply can’t learn because hunger and worry about his/her family’s hunger keeps him occupied mentally and emotionally elsewhere!

The national “talk” is about how the next generation could be strapped with huge national debt, and unable to sustain this country as they take on a growing aged population with their own smaller census of workers.

Talk about off-the-mark! How dare we skip the reality of today to focus so exclusively (even with justification) about tomorrow. These youth may not LIVE to inherit the earth: debt-laden or debt-free. These children cannot develop their bodies for the future when robbed of nutrients and health care today. These future workers will not become the engineers or the highway workers who maintain our infrastructure, so necessary to a vibrant economy, if their minds have not been nurtured with the opportunity and ability to achieve at least a basic education.

Yes, I’m scared…..and angry. Now is the time to refocus attention, discussion, and action. Please join me.

People: Our most valuable resource?

AARP released a new survey yesterday: 2011 State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers. Sadly, Oklahoma ranks 48th overall. Most alarming is that Oklahoma ranks 49th in Quality of Life and Quality of Care and 51st (DC is included) in Support to Family Caregivers.

As those reading my blog know, my life’s focus has been on children and families. I am not an expert on aging and disabilities….other than the daily knowledge I am gaining through passing my 60th birthday!

Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Hawaii all rank highest. What have those states done that Oklahoma hasn’t? Why, once again, are 7 of the lowest ranking states located in the southeast of the US?

The report accompanying the scorecard is nicely detailed about possible answers to the above and is offered as a benchmark and set of recommendations for states.

As Oklahoma tackles our design of health care reform and the creation of  a state health care exchange, this report is timely. All citizens, young and old, need a government that weaves individual choice and control (obviously with age-appropriate limitations for the young) with a framework of community well-being in which public structures support access and affordability to needed services for quality living.  That certainly sounds like populist Oklahoma to me.

Let’s hope our legislators working on these issues read the AARP report. Let’s hope our citizens notice the needs of their neighbors just a bit more. Let’s act in some way – big or small – to make a difference.

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-09-2011/ltss-scorecard.html

Important Re-post: Everyone’s future is on-the-table.

Three essentials for the deficit panel’s proposal

By James E. Clyburn, Published: September 5

Since I was named to the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “supercommittee”) charged with getting our nation’s financial house in order, the reactions I have received from South Carolinians and others have been encouraging and remarkably enthusiastic. So much so that I have, on occasion, found it necessary to reflect on having grown up in a parsonage as a minister’s son, and cautioned that my 11 colleagues and I are not the “chosen 12.”

I am entering the committee’s negotiations with a clear vision, an open mind and a willingness to find common ground. I have always said that if the distance between my opponents and me is five steps, I don’t mind taking three. Real deficit reduction, however, must have three components: jobs, cuts and revenue.

Jobs: During the August recess I held a town hall meeting on the campus of Voorhees College, in Bamberg County, S.C. Bamberg has an unemployment rate of 17.5 percent. The neighboring counties of Barnwell, Orangeburg and Allendale have, respectively, unemployment rates of 17 percent, 17.7 percent and 19.8 percent. People didn’t want to hear about cuts or revenue; they wanted to hear about jobs. We cannot get the economy back on track until we put people back to work. Job creation will generate tax revenue and reduce the need for government assistance.

Cuts: Targeting waste, fraud and abuse; eliminating unnecessary and duplicative spending; and ending military adventurism need not be accompanied by slashing essential services such as education and shredding our social safety nets — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Just last week, the Commis sion on Wartime Contracting identified at least $31 billion, and possibly $60 billion, in waste and fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. This spring the Government Accountability Office identified 34 areas where federal agencies or offices offer overlapping and duplicative programs.Streamlining could save billions.

Revenue: While I think our current tax code is unfair and in need of massive overhaul, the supercommittee does not have the time or resources to sufficiently reform the tax code. But we do have time to reduce inequities, close loopholes, and eliminate outdated and unnecessary tax subsidies. The evidence is clear and convincing. There is a growing wealth gap in this country that is squeezing the middle class and pushing millions into poverty. We need to work together to address these urgent priorities.

This leads me back to my youthful days in the parsonage. I am the oldest of three boys. One day my brothers and I were having a disagreement that turned physical. Our minister father, who loved to teach through parables, called us over when he thought our altercation had gone on long enough. He gave a piece of cord string to my youngest brother, Charles, and asked him to break it. Charles couldn’t. He then gave it to my brother John and asked him to pop it. John couldn’t. Finally he gave it to me and told me to break the string. I couldn’t. Our father placed that piece of cord string between his palms and started rubbing his hands together. The more he rubbed, the more friction he created, and the cord string started to unravel — into three pieces. He gave one to each of us and told us to break them. This time when we tried, we succeeded. Then, dad gave us the lesson: “Don’t you let the little disagreements that crop up among you create so much friction that it separates you, because if you do, the world will pop you apart and you may never realize why.”

We, as a supercommittee, cannot let our differences cause too much disagreement. Debt and deficit reduction should be wrapped into a strong cord of job creation, budget cuts and revenue raisers. Pursuing them separately will weaken our efforts and could doom our mission.

The writer, a U.S. representative from South Carolina, is assistant Democratic leader in the House.

29 Republican Governors, including Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, have asked Minority US Senate and House leaders to block-grant Medicaid funds for the states. These governors decry the need for flexibility in managing state budgets and meeting the health care needs of their citizens. Indeed, states headed by both Democrat and Republican governors are struggling and all governors support the concepts of flexibility, transparency, accountability, and partnership as concerns federal-state appropriations and obligations.

I have great concerns, however, about block-granting Medicaid, especially as it might impact children.

Child advocates understand and agree with the need to rein in the budget and to control Medicaid costs. At same time, we are very concerned that only 22% of Medicaid spending is used by children who comprise 58% of the Medicaid population. Block-granting of Medicaid pits that non-voting, under-represented group (i.e. children) against voting and vocal constituencies.

Likewise, experience suggests that future appropriations from the federal government under a block-grant will not keep up with skyrocketing health care costs or the cost of inflation. Thus the pain of program cuts (and more political haggling) is simply thrust onto the states.

Child advocates, community and business leaders, and parents need to communicate with federally elected officials and governors now: protect our children. Do not block-grant Medicaid! However, if you do, do not jeopardize the next generation of leaders, families and advocates by compromising their health, safety, and education today….and as you address state budgets in the future!

What’s to come for the children?

It is reported that Governor Mary Fallin will announce in her State-of-the-State address Monday a 3-5% budget reduction for all state agencies. Education, health, and human services are slated for a 3% cut.
While relieved that those agencies will receive the ‘smaller’ cuts, we must remain mindful that those cuts mean services….and therefore lives and quality of life.
There are no easy answers.

I applaud the Governor on recognizing the vulnerability of children and families through the lower reduction. I pray for some realization of additional funding as this Session moves forward.

It will be another tough year where Oklahomans must pull together for the well-being of all and further proof of the “Oklahoma standard”.