Archive for the ‘ National Politics ’ Category

This week, President Obama issued a controversial, three-part executive order preventing the deportation of over five-million illegal immigrants.

Presto! You are legal!

In Thursday night’s pathos-saturated speech to the American people, the president relied heavily on rhetorical questioning to appeal to our hearts and our patriotism,

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?”

“Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families and works together to keep them together? Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us, or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs here, create businesses here, create industries right here in America? That’s what this debate is all about.”

No, Mr. President; we are not. We are a nation which has famously welcomed the “tired, the poor,” the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the statue 2“wretched refuse” of other nations.  The Statue of Liberty calls, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

But once the immigrants get through that golden door, what happens? What becomes of them? In the case of the illegals who snuck in a golden back-window in the dead of night and then lived in constant fear of deportation, they may remain here, though they don’t necessarily have a path to citizenship just yet. They are assured that their family can and will thrive in the land of milk and honey, and if they cannot, their adopted Uncle Sam will see to it that they have what they need.

Yeah. That’s exactly how it works. Just ask the people in Appalachia, many the ancestors of the Scots-Irish and Europeans who waited in long lines to trudge through that golden door to mine black gold in the hills of West Virginia, Virginia, southern Ohio, and eastern Kentucky. immigrants2

When King Coal was dethroned, our nation expanded and extended support to the poorest counties of these states, via government social programs that were intended to get people on their feet. Fifty years after LB Johnson declared his  “War on Poverty, the poverty rates in rural Appalachia average slightly over 30%. In some areas as many as 47% of the people live on government support (Gabriel).

Consider, too, how this nation has provided for  the people who had already claimed this continent when the Europeans began colonizing. Our Native-American communities, confined within awkward reservation boundaries, fit the true definition of ghetto—there  is little escape from the cycle of poverty. One in four Native Americans and Native American Eskimos survive below the poverty level, with proportionately less government assistance than other American-poor (A Quiet Crisis).


Yet, Obama essentially has allowed millions of people who have bypassed the golden door to stay on and get an even bigger piece of the shrinking American pie, without any regard for the generations whose ancestors we welcomed centuries ago, nor for those who were here long before the United States of America existed.

President Obama’s bold action last week further taxes this nation’s resources and even further reduces its ability to improve the lives of America’s forgotten poor.

Signing that executive action, then asking us to be compassionate is akin to the neighborhood crazy cat  letting one more sad-eyed kitten in the door, crazy cat ladythen



another, then another, even though she hasn’t the time nor the resources to properly care for the ones she is already housing.

This laughably loose analogy doesn’t account for the fact that people can and, for the most part, want to work. But it does describe how taking too many people in as a compassionate act can have unintended consequences.

While I am a staunch advocate of our duty to care for, provide for, and fight for people throughout the world, I wonder why our president is more concerned with making things easier for people who disregarded American laws instead of investing in programs and industries and businesses that could boost the economic potential of rural Appalachia. The citizens of this region are among those Obama referred to in his address, who

“…go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens.”

I wonder why our president is not instead advocating for real change for  the Native Americans and Native Alaskans who live on resource rich territories with as high as 54% poverty rates, according to the 2010 US Census? I wonder why our president is not brazenly crafting and signing legislation that would extend loans to businesses willing to set up shop in coal country, bringing more jobs to some of the nation’s poorest areas.

America already cares for these people, you say? Sure! The people in need in these areas get Food Stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, government-subsidized education yet, wonder of wonders, they are still exceedingly, excruciatingly poor. Some areas could be described as  third-world poor. Almost 15% of Native American homes and schools on American reservations have no electrical service, though they may have wiring. A staggering 20% have no plumbing, and 18% have inadequate sewage-containment systems (US Census). poor-native-american-indians-shelter-shack-dilapitaed1



There are homes in rural Appalachia without connections to a local water service. No pipes, no toilets, no sinks. I’ve seen homes there with no windows. I once met a 19-year-old woman there who had not tasted a peach or a pear until I shared with her.

Is this the America the president closed his speech stating that “we love?” Is this the American Obama spoke about the other night, the one with a

“… shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will”?

As we were  reminded Thursday night, “we are and always will be a nation of immigrants.”  Ah, the romance. Then the roses stop coming…

America hasn’t made good on its promise to all of its immigrants. The country hasn’t even treated its native populace with honor and respect. It is ludicrous to  allow so many more people in, with so many more to follow, without ensuring that those that are already here can prosper.


“A Quiet Crisis: Federal Funding and Unmet Needs in Indian Country.” US Commission on Civil Rights.  Report. July 2003.

Gabriel, Trip. “50 Years Into the War on Poverty, Hardship Hits Back.” New York Times. April 20, 2014.

Krogstad, Jens Manuel. “One-in-four Native Americans and Alaska Natives are Living in Poverty.” Pew Research Center. FactTank: News in the Numbers. June 13, 2014.

Obama, Barack. Immigration Speech: Transcript. Washington Post. Nov. 20, 2014.

US Census Bureau (2000). US Census FactFinder. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau.

Images from Native American Poverty in the US., The, US Immigration Archives.


Health Care: Right or Responsibility?


It’s an expense.

Health care is an economic commodity, just like food, clothing, shelter, cell-phones, cable television, and X-box 360s. And the health care system is simply an industry, or rather, an amalgamation of industries that provide preventative, emergency, maintenance, and palliative care; pharmaceuticals and supplies, and insurance coverage.

It might seem a bit of a stretch to compare a “need” such as health care to a video game system, which is clearly a “want.” But consider that most of us put those wants ahead of needs like health care, and instead of putting aside money from each paycheck to cover for unanticipated medical calamities, choose to invest in the latest Blackberry, which like an automobile loses a requisite amount of its value the minute you step out of the Verizon store. Putting money aside for health maintenance and emergencies is the furthest thing from our minds, which is why culturally we have come to rely so heavily on health insurance.

When the rainy day comes, as it is bound to do by the laws of nature, we are quick to curse the weatherman for his faulty forecast when we could have seen the clouds rolling in and carried the umbrella.

We don’t consider food, clothing and shelter “rights” that we are all entitled to. They are, in fact, expenses…needs that we have access to through the labor exchange. If a citizen is unable to exchange work for money, and cannot afford housing, clothing, and food, there are means—some government, read: taxpayer supported—to provide.  There is no need nationalize the food-manufacture and delivery system (although we do subscribe to an interesting system of government implemented agricultural price controls, but that is a topic for another blog). No one in Congress is calling for the nationalization of clothing manufacture, sales, and distribution so that the poor can afford what the middle-class and wealthy can.

OK, I admit that I am stretching the analogy and comparing apples to oranges. The fact is Americans need access to affordable quality health care. They can live with the Wrangler jeans donated by a charity or purchased for $5 at the Goodwill, if need be.  They cannot live well without preventative care and without a physician’s care for maladies. That doesn’t mean that we are entitled to that care. It doesn’t make it a right.

 That doesn’t mean that we can have the Xbox and insist that someone else pay for our child’s immunizations.  It means that we have to live within our means and we have to view medical bills as costs of living.

After talking with my students last night after they read two articles on the subject, I’ve  worked out a therapy plan for the crippled system.

Helen Wheales’ Health Care Plan

Reform the current entitlement programs: All sides in this argument agree that the health-care system in the globe’s most free and wealthy society is not working as it could and should. I know that some on the Conservative side of the aisle and my Libertarian pals will cringe at the suggestion, but the government should start reforming Medicare and Medicaid by expanding them to cover those 45 million people that they claim are currently underserved. This, of course, is in opposition to HR 3299, the Health Reform Act that aims to cure the nation’s malaise by mandating coverage to all citizens, currently covered or not, and creating a utopian, public-sector program.

Ideally, I’d like to see the big-Ms  privatized, which would iron out a lot of wrinkles, specifically where doctor access is concerned. Physicians are increasingly refusing Medicare/Medicaid patients not only because payments are slow in coming, but because they are low. This can’t get any better under the Obamacare consolidated insurance system—a single-payer system—in which salaried physicians are forced to accept a government-agency-determined pre-payment for delivery of care.

–Let market forces work their magic

It’s Econ 101- supply and demand.  Demand is a want or need backed by the almighty dollar. Supply is the ability to keep up with demand. The market equalizes when supply and demand intersect. In the case of health care, this creates a consumer-driven market. Prices should fall for things like a standard physicians visit when physicians are allowed to compete for patients by lowering rates, packaging services, and offering monthly fees and packages.

Insurance prices would be considerably more competitive with carriers competing for consumer dollars in a way not unlike Allstate, State Farm, Geiko, Safe Auto, and Progressive insurance companies compete to cover our autos.

This situation currently does not exist BECAUSE of government intervention in commerce, which prevents interstate competition in the health-care insurance industry. Eliminating this roadblock would be akin to tearing down the Berlin Wall, freeing us to shop around, to use the Internet, to create a la carte plans not unlike what the aforementioned car insurance companies offer. Consumer choice would drive the market.

–Shift away from discussions of Rights and toward discussion of Responsibilities

All of us need to take charge of, take responsibility for, our own health care. That might mean we invest in health care savings plans, and it might mean changing our diets, getting the suggested exercise.reventative care and healthy lifestyles as a matter of choice could (and should) affect insurance premiums, just as our driving record affects our auto insurance rates.
–Tort Reform

Nothing would lighten the costs of most doctors more than an overhaul of the tenuous relationship between the legal and medical professions. Tort reform lifts the heavy load of the excessive malpractice-insurance and liability premiums, which are passed on to the health-care consumer. Instituting reasonable protections, such as an early settlement system for claims against doctors, a “safe harbor” system which protects them from non-evidence based lawsuits, and special “health courts” where judges specializing in medicine would afford speedier trials, lowering overhead and creating a more open medical malpractice system that could even weed out those physicians who shouldn’t be practicing in a manner not unlike that which strips members of the legal community of their licenses when they are deemed unfit to serve.

 It is clear–major widespread changes are needed, but the current proposal making the rounds on Capitol Hill will not solve the problem and create affordable care that maintains, if not exceeds, the current quality of care we expect in the world’s most developed nation. Modest improvements won’t do the job, but neither will nationalizing the system.

The Power of the Pen

I stopped in Borders today with no intention of grabbing anything in particular. When my son wandered over to the Young Adult table, I decided to  look for a couple of texts that were on my Christmas list, but didn’t show up under my tree…and none were available in store.

So, I ended up picking up a copy of The Federalist, which is available online. This Modern Library edition is edited by Robert Scigliano, a Boston College political-science professor. His substantial introduction to the papers provides background that I wouldn’t get from the online versions, and an interesting perspective on some of the controversies surrounding authorship of the 85 commentaries.

From  this intro, I gleaned something of significance to my teaching this semester that I hadn’t before considered. My students rarely understand the power  writing can have. Most consider it something that they do in exchange for a grade. It is quite a struggle to convince them that to write is to create knowledge, to express, and to participate in civic discourse.

I plan to use The Federalist Papers to demonstrate the significance of argumentative writing to their lives. I won’t assign them as reading, but I plan to provide them as an example–Alexander Hamilton had a problem. He had to convince the state delegates to ratify the Constitution forming a national government. If they did not, each state would be completely self-governed.

Hamilton and other Federalists had had no luck convincing the hold-out states, so he brainstormed and came up with a plan to write a series of newspaper pieces  that would, “…present a full discussion of the merits of the proposaed constitution in all its relations.”

He enlisted John Jay and James Madison to co-author in their areas of expertise…and the plan worked. By the power of the pen, the citizens and state delegates were persuaded by the written word.  Without  persuasive writing, the United States of America would not exist.

Will my students be awed? Doubtful. But perhaps it will give them something to think about as they pen their own arguments.

The Cool Kids Get All The Breaks

Is President Obama taking the appropriate action to protect our troops and interests in Afghanistan? Is he making appropriate diplomatic choices while visiting with Asian leaders? Did he really think through his decision to try the 911 hijackers in New York City? Is he making flippant and irresponsible statments about the inevitability of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s conviction? Is he doing what he can to revise and negotiate a health care reform bill that will not bankrupt the country and burden our future generations?  

Who the hell cares? According to USA Today, he is the hippest cat in America!

Get a load of this graph from a November 3 article:

“President Obama may not have delivered on all the policy changes he promised since his election a year ago, but he and his family have brought dramatic social change to the nation’s capital and to the country’s collective image of its first family — and not just because they’re the first African Americans in charge at the White House.”

 While I see how the family has changed the image of the first family, I can’t think of  any “dramatic social change” the Obama’s have  brought.

The article details all the cool things the Obamas do, like hosting poetry slams, hiring Stevie Wonder,  Fergie,  and the Foo Fighters to entertain at their house, and they go to Paris and Martha’s Vineyard as a family! The first couple use iPods! She Twitters! He is addicted to his Blackberry.  She has a Facebook page.

 They go tho their kids soccer games. They work out….and they go out on the town… a lot.

If he got any cooler, he’d be able to bump Johnny Depp from the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive throne.

The fact is, we all take our kids to soccer games, and we love or iPods, and social-networking tools. We travel with our families, and though we can’t have big-name acts play at our parties, we can entertain with their music. Obama is no cooler than the rest of us. The only difference between us and him is his success or lack thereof in his job, and his approval rating.  Hard-working Americans can sit at my cool table. Until The President proves himself worthy, he’ll have to find another spot in the cafeteria.

Helen’s Halloween Costume



Here’s a photo of me in costume: It was the scariest thing I could think of–Terrifying, isn’t it?