It is NOT over!

I have been away from this blog. Waiting daily for Congress to pass something to allow debt limit to be raised while fighting harmful changes to Medicaid and programs for the poor. We all know that they finally did something!  Then we see the details.

I took some time to try and find relief.  Still no sign of relief, but it was refreshing not to have the constant screaming and blaming from DC on the airwaves 24/7!

HOWEVER, it is NOT over!  Health care, food stamps, Medicaid for the indigent, poor families, and foster kids is still on the chopping block. Maybe not today – Congress is on recess. But if the new Super Committee cannot come up with reasoned and adequate budget cuts by their November 23rd deadline for reporting out recommendations, nothing is spared the ax potentially…..poor, hungry, ill, infirm, old, foster kids!

Indeed, these cuts won’t heal!  And so my work continues.  And you are needed to help keep these concerns before your Congresspersons.

At least DC took a recess…..and I was able to gain my wind again!

There’s something about being a woman……

that is different!

Good and not so good.  Good: we live longer than men apparently.  Bad: we live longer than men.

This matter of additional days, months, or years takes on new meaning in the current federal budget debates.  IF social security payments are cut or do NOT have any cost of living increases available, women will be most disadvantaged as we live longer on less. (Does anyone think the cost of living will not rise in next 10-40 years? If you do, I have a “bridge”…….).  IF Medicare age of eligibility is raised, women will be the ones waiting longer (longest?) for access to health care and that doesn’t even look at the issue of what Medicare will cover in the future.  BECAUSE women remain the primary care givers in our society and BECAUSE society still does not pay women the same salaries for the same work as men, we do not have the equal or adequate social security savings in the first place… either from time off to raise children, responsibilities to tend to elderly parents, or flat out salary discrimination!

Humm, and this tiresome political wrangling over the budget continues to suggest the way to remedy this country’s fiscal problems will fall disproportionately on women.

Indeed, there’s something about being a woman that is different…..and unfair. I wonder if Democrats or Republicans would be focused on this set of ‘solutions’ if the majority of elected officials were women.  I doubt it.

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!

As The World Turns…..

Indeed, the budget conversations in DC do seem like a soap opera. AND the world is watching.

If we do not finalize a new debt ceiling by Aug. 2nd, the faith and credit of the US government will be in default for the first time ever. As it is, several major international financial standards have reduced or threatened to reduce the US credit standing now due to our lack of resolution and clear commitment to our budget and debt situation.

These are indeed very tough decisions. Surely there are many details and considerations that must be understood both in the immediate future and in the long-term.

I do not profess to have the answers. However, I do know that if the budget that has passed the House, which would force WIC- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – to turn away 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year (-2,300 to -4,000 women and children impacted in Oklahoma alone), is allowed to become law, then the values of the Congress are not the values of most Americans.

Similarly, the House budget plan converts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps) into a “block grant” program and cuts SNAP funding by $127 billion in the 2012‐2021 period. This would eliminate millions of Americans from the program at a time when they have been forced to seek help – many for the first time – due to the problems in our economy. Again, if this is allowed to happen, the values of this Congress are not the values of most Americans.

A blatant omission of Congress’s duties has been to omit consideration of revenue enhancements (i.e. raising revenue, restricting tax breaks, etc.). These discussions must be, but have not been, a part of any balanced discussion about the US budget and economy.

One does not need to know all the answers to understand that hungry Americans cannot be the productive workforce we need. Desperate people often behave badly and dangerously in their homes and communities when driven to despair. Babies cannot grow their brains and bodies for future health and productivity if adequate nutrition is withheld. Children cannot become the leaders we need for the future when hunger prevents them from learning, imagining, and creating the skills our country will need.

The US budget IS a moral document as much as a fiscal plan and guide. Cutting WIC and SNAP are immoral when no alternative is offered to feed America.

The Future is Now!

More than 22 percent of Oklahoma children live in poverty in homes where the annual income is less than $22,350 for a family of four, Census data shows. Of the households that receive food stamps (SNAP) in Oklahoma, 58.1 percent have children under the age of 18.

I doubt these statistics are much better in most  other states.

As Congress works to control and re-affirm the federal budget and as other states try to balance the huge fiscal holes they face, let us remember that these children who are the future of our country will not only inherit massive debt if that is what we leave them, but they will also have developed less potential to address whatever their reality may be if we do not feed, cloth, and educated them NOW!

Woe, to be a child in America…..

According to US Treasury Secretary, in the U.S. today , 40% of children born each year are covered by Medicaid. If you are born today in hard-pressed communities in many American cities, like St. Louis or Baltimore, you are more likely to die before your first birthday than if you were born in Sri Lanka or Belarus.

Yet Congress and the States are focusing on Medicaid cuts, now that seniors, hospitals, and physicians have rallied again Medicare cuts.

I am all for system reform. HOWEVER, please distinguish between the child utilizers of Medicaid (57%) and the total amount of Medicaid funds used (only 21% for children) and possible duplication or need for reform in other parts of the system. I am also for fairness, including revenue enhancements as needed to fulfill our destiny to “care for the poor and orphaned”.

Once again, children do not have a loud voice in policy discussions and cannot adequately defend themselves from fiscal assault….or any other injustice which sent them into the Medicaid system in first place.

A Boon for Women

(Reposted from National Journal 5.11.11)

As the health care reform package took shape on Capitol Hill, some touted the positive effect it would have on women’s health needs. Turns out, they were right. Under the reform law, health coverage will expand to nearly all uninsured women, with protections to keep costs low, according to a Commonwealth Fund report out Wednesday. An estimated 27 million women, ages 19-64, were uninsured for all or part of 2010, the report states.

Crisis Time…..and more critical each day.

Those reading this post have probably kept up somewhat with the fiscal crisis in Washington concerning the federal budget and the fact that there is not one for 2011! Indeed we are all anxious to put our financial house in order.

HOWEVER, we should not ‘save’ the economy at the expense of our children, our frail and aged, and those who work for a living and pay taxes – yet are not paid enough to manage health care, post-secondary education, good nutrition, reliable transportation, and the elements we tout as defining who we are as Americans.

The “dream” should not belong only to the wealthy and defense contractors!

This Nation is better than that. (Stay tuned…..)

Let’s not be short-sighted

For several years we have been appropriately forewarned about the need to control the US federal debt. The current Administration provided important relief through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Some would say the Administration simply postponed the inevitable. Regardless, it is disingenuous to feign too much surprise that all states, except North Dakota and Alaska, face major budget challenges at this time.

The majority of Americans support that we get our fiscal house in order and cease from strangling future generations with this burden of debt. How we go about doing that is another matter of debate and great consternation to those of us who consider ourselves child and family advocates.

Current proposals to cut funding for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children supplemental food and health services program for low income families), Community Block Grants, Head Start, youth job training programs, community health centers, substance abuse treatment, and IDEA (funds for special education services) also threaten  those very future generations we propose to protect. If we deny our children – yes, they are our children – a sound foundation of health, education, housing, and individual opportunity, how do we expect them to have the skills to lead effectively, make decisions wisely and compassionately, and confront future challenges to society and government with determination when it becomes their turns at the reigns of this great country?

Why is production of more or new military weapons, including those recommended for elimination by Pentagon officials, so sacrosanct?  

Indeed, the America of tomorrow will need many of today’s youth as engineers, scientists, and members of our military ranks. We will also need doctors, teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs.

The question is will they have those opportunities when we know today that developing young brains, encouraging healthy bodies, and providing stable  living environments are the keys to competent, secure and productive tomorrow?