December 04, 2013 10:18 PM CST December 04, 2013 11:16 PM CST Study: Refusal to expand Medicaid is costing Texas billions
Study: Refusal to expand Medicaid is costing Texas billions
ROBERT T. GARRETT The Dallas Morning News
Published: 04 December 2013 10:18 PM
Updated: 04 December 2013 11:16 PM
AUSTIN — If Texas keeps refusing to enlarge Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the state will pass up a heap of money, a new study has found.
In 2022, the state would pass up federal money for Medicaid expansion equal to more than twice its haul that year in federal highway aid, according to researchers Sherry Glied and Stephanie Ma of New York University.
Texas would forfeit $9.6 billion of federal Medicaid matching funds in 2022. That’s one-fourth of what the federal government expects to spend on defense contracts in the state that year, the study said.
“No state that declines to expand the program is going to be fiscally better off because of it,” said Glied, a former Obama administration health planning official who is dean of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.
Texas Republican leaders have resisted Medicaid expansion, saying federal rules are too rigid and state costs in future years would soar. GOP leaders predict that federal budget cuts and the Affordable Care Act’s rollout problems will force a rollback of the generous pledge of federal funding.
Last year, Texas took $17 billion in federal money for its $28 billion Medicaid program. It currently covers 3.6 million children, pregnant women, seniors and disabled Texans.
More than 1 million poor adults of working age would be added to the program by 2016 if Texas changed course and embraced expansion, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.
The study was sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group that argues for improvements in health care accessibility and affordability. It said Texas in 2022 would have to pick up 10 percent of the Medicaid expansion tab. The state cost would be $1.2 billion.
If state leaders persist in rejecting expansion, Texans still would pay for other states to cover low-income adults through their income, corporate and estate taxes paid to the federal government, Glied and Ma wrote.
“Their tax dollars will be used to support a program from which nobody in their state will benefit,” Glied said in a written statement.
Health policy analyst John Davidson said state leaders are right to rebuff the federal money.
“Until Medicaid is fundamentally reformed, it’s reckless to expand it,” said Davidson, of the free market-oriented Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income Texans, said the study highlights how Medicaid already is “a major job generator” in the state.
“It’s just hard to imagine that Texas would even consider giving up a quarter of our defense contracts,” she said. “We would consider it calamitous, yet in the current [political] climate, that’s the kind of decision that’s being promoted.”
The Effects of Texas Abortion Restrictions
Two Texas abortion providers reported this week that they will soon close their doors as a result of new abortion restrictions passed by the Texas Legislature. According to a March 6 Texas Tribune article, this makes 20 Texas abortion clinics that have closed their doors since last summer. The article notes that this will lead to a situation where the demand for abortions in Texas will quickly be much higher than the supply of abortion providers. In other words, next year, there will be approximately 25,000 women who will desire to get an abortion, but wont be able to because of the closure of these clinics. This lack of supply will be concentrated in the valley region, where for women in McAllen, the closest abortion clinic will be 235 miles away in San Antonio. This is a tragedy for a region where, according to the same article, 12% of women who eventually got an abortion attempted to give themselves an abortion before seeking professional assistance.
Texas is making a big mistake and, if we do not change course on this issue, the consequences will be catastrophic. These laws will not greatly reduce the number of abortions, they will increase the number of deaths, and they could increase the number of abortions.
These laws will not work
According to a 2009 study in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the parts of Europe where abortion is the least restricted (Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) have less than 10 abortions a year for every 1,000 women of gestational age. In contrast, countries where abortion is illegal have from the mid 20s up to 39 abortions for every 1,000 women of gestational age, depending on the country in question.
In other words, there is no evidence to indicate that the number of abortions decrease due to more restrictive abortion laws. If more restrictive abortion laws do not decrease the number of abortions, why would we pass them?
These laws will increase the number of deaths
For the most part, legal abortion is a safe procedure for the mother. According to a CDC study, in 2008, only 12 women died from abortion related complications in the United States. That number remains pretty consistent in years past with 6 women in 2007, and 7 women in each year from 2004 to 2006. This gives abortion a .64% mortality rate from 2004-2008.
Compare these numbers with the mortality rate due to abortions in countries where abortion is a crime. According to a 2009 article in Obstetrics and Gynecology, countries with the most restrictive abortion laws see 34 abortion related deaths for every 1,000 childbirths, compared with less than 1 abortion related death for every 1,000 childbirths in countries without restrictive abortion laws. In other words, around 68,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year in countries where abortion is illegal or greatly restricted. This means a woman dies every 8 minutes from a failed illegal abortion, somewhere in the world. Furthermore, of the women who attempt to give themselves illegal abortions and survive, 5 million suffer long term complications each year.
If Texas puts great restrictions on abortion in the state, our abortion mortality rate will begin looking more like that of these other countries and less like that of the rest of the United States. The current Texas restrictions will lead to a Texas where young girls will google how to give themselves abortions, attempt abortions on themselves, and the results will be horrendous. We cannot allow that to occur.
Restrictive Laws Will Increase the Number of Abortions
The number of abortions occurring in America has decreased significantly in recent years. Most social scientists believe this is due to increased access to contraception and better sexual education. According to the Texas Tribune article cited above, 45% of Texas women who got abortions reported that they had stopped taking birth control in the months before their pregnancy “because it was too expensive.”
Luckily, Texas abortion providers also double as family planning clinics who teach sexual education and provide free or reduced price contraception to low income individuals who could not afford it otherwise. As these clinics are shut down, those services disapear in the areas that need it the most. When the nearest sexual health clinic is 235 miles away from women in McAllen, where will they go for birth control they can afford? There will be no alternative and the unplanned pregnancy rate in Texas will increase. As this occurs, the abortion rate will increase as well, and, with restricted access to legal and safe abortions, these abortions will be illegal and will lead to an increase in the abortion related mortality rate.
In conclusion, Texas is making a big mistake. Restrictive abortion laws do nothing to decrease the number of abortions, they increase the number of maternal deaths, and they might even increase the number of abortions.
When we talk about abortion, we are often talking about tough decisions made by young girls who are not old enough to really understand the consequences of their actions. A CDC study showed that, when girls under 15 years of age get pregnant, over 30% of them get an abortion. When girls from ages 15 to 24 get pregnant, around 13% get an abortion. When women from ages 25 to 39 get pregnant, less than 10% of them get an abortion.
Seeing as how it is young girls, especially those under the age of 15, who are most likely to get an abortion if they are pregnant, do we really want to allow them to undergo harsh deaths at the hands of themselves, their boyfriends, their parents, or someone else who attempts to give them an illegal abortion?
The statistics show that there is no such thing as “pro life”. The two choices are safe and legal abortion or unsafe and illegal abortion. If we are serious about reducing the number of abortions, we should follow the evidence and increase access to contraception and sexual education because those are the only tools that are proven to work. Restricting access to abortion will only create an even bigger catastrophe without removing the problem we were trying to solve in the first place.
Once again Kingwood Area Democrat Marc Croes gives Kingwood and the surrounding area food for thought. Marc Croes says,
On this 50th Anniversary of Texan Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, one of the successes worth celebrating is the Head Start Program. The Head Start Program has proven to be one our most durable and successful Federal anti-poverty programs. It’s a simple concept: place disadvantaged preschool children into a structured program that would prepare the kids for school. Since Head Start was first conceived in 1964 over 25 million pre-school children have participated. Millions and millions of these children have received a measurable benefit. Our public schools have also benefitted, as they have to designate fewer resources to remedial education when the children who enroll are better prepared. Not only does Head Start help our kids, it helps keep our property taxes down!
Head Start has also had other successes. In its early days, Head Start funded an experimental educational television show we now know as Sesame Street. Now Head Start reaches out to children living in homeless shelters, often providing the only educational opportunity available to them.
The American economy is no longer dominated by manufacturing. Our economy is dominated by service industries, and technology. The key to technology is innovation. If America is to maintain its place as the world’s largest and most vibrant economy and technological leader, our education system we MUST provide a quality education to all our kids, not just the privileged ones.
See Marc Croes’ entire piece below.
Kingwood Area Democrat Alison Goodwin exposes the fallacy that tort reform Texas style would have any effect on rates Texans pay for insurance. Alison Goodwin has faith in the American citizenry. She articulates very well that Texans were coerced into supporting a change that was not in their best interest.
Alison Goodwin writes,
Think back to 2003. You may remember those galvanizing TV and radio commercials concerning “run-away” jury awards. The woman at McDonalds who spilled her coffee… didn’t she get an unreasonable settlement at tax payers’ expense? Wouldn’t we all like to see some change there? The insurance companies sure thought so, and they used the considerable weight of their campaign contributions to recruit the Texas Republican Party to their cause. They then applied that momentum in full force in the decade to come. Although the McDonalds case was unrelated, occurred in 1994, and was extremely fact-specific, insurance companies spent tons of money on their media campaign to convince taxpayers that reform was absolutely necessary Specifically, insurance companies used the public hysteria surrounding the McDonalds case to argue that obscene damages were being handed out left and right to every person who brought a lawsuit regarding personal injury. The insurance lobby went further to claim that corporations and doctors were suffering because, gee whiz, citizens who had suffered negligence or absolute ill-will at the hands of a professional had the nerve to sue for fair compensation of their damages.
By Aviva Shen on February 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm
Planned Parenthood, used to playing the villain in many conservative candidates’ campaigns, is launching its largest campaign offensive ever, according to Politico, with a plan to spend more than $18 million in at least 14 states where reproductive rights are vulnerable. The organization will follow its playbook from last year’s successful Virginia gubernatorial campaign, combining ads focused on women’s health overall with on-the-ground voter outreach.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political arm of the women’s health provider, is specifically targeting Senate and gubernatorial races in states like North Carolina, which passed some of the most radical abortion restrictions in the country last year, and Texas, where gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis (D) famously filibustered a law that has shuttered most of the state’s abortion clinics. Getting more pro-choice governors and state legislators into office could prove especially crucial to counteract the unprecedented onslaught of state-level bills restricting abortion and contraception access.
In response to these anti-choice efforts, pro-choice candidates and lawmakers are starting to embrace a “war on women” message — with encouraging results. Capitalizing on massive protests against abortion restriction bills, outspoken pro-choice voices like Davis have ascended to the national stage, while hard-line anti-choice candidates like Ken Cuccinelli and Todd Akin have seen their hopes dashed.
Planned Parenthood has been instrumental in toppling these radical candidates. After the 2012 election, in which Planned Parenthood spent $15 million, research showed that Republicans’ support of restrictive laws on abortion and birth control likely cost them the presidential election. Down the ticket, data from the Sunlight Foundation showed that Planned Parenthood was the most successful lobbying group in the 2012 election, having spent 98 percent of their campaign money on winning candidates.
Republicans, meanwhile, were left trying to quiet certain voices in the party in an attempt to change their anti-woman image.
Rather than simply react to Republican fumbles as they happen, Planned Parenthood’s involvement in this campaign cycle could change the conversation entirely. Planned Parenthood Action Fund head Cecile Richards told Politico they plan to prove candidates don’t need to campaign defensively on reproductive rights, but should proactively pitch women’s health care as part of the broader economic issue of women’s and family’s rights.
February 17, 2014 1:29 am by: Salvatore Aversa
A report released in late 2013 by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government has shed light on just how much the Iraq and Afghanistan war has cost the country, both financially and through human lives.
When President Bush and his Administration were contemplating the war, we were fed lies about the cost of the war. The Administration convinced the public, as well as Congress, that the wars would finance themselves through Iraqi oil.
President Bush’s National Economic Council Director, Lawrence Lindsey, was not convinced that such a claim could be true. On September 15, 2002, Mr. Lindsey did an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed the actual cost of the Iraq War could cost as much as 1-2% of the GDP, or approximately $100-200 billion.
While we now know that number was not even come close to the actual mammoth cost, which is still accruing over 10 years later, his comments infuriated those inside the Administration. His comments eventually cost him his job inside the White House.
Back in 2002, the White House was quick to distance itself from Lindsey’s view. Mitch Daniels, director of the White House budget office, quickly called the estimate “very, very high.” Lindsey himself was dismissed in a shake-up of the White House economic team later that year, and in January 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the budget office had come up with “a number that’s something under $50 billion.” He and other officials expressed optimism that Iraq itself would help shoulder the cost once the world market was reopened to its rich supply of oil.
To date, the Iraq and Afghanistan war have cost over $2 trillion, and will end up costing 4-6 trillion due to medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The 2 trillion is expected to skyrocket in coming years, as interest continues to mount. According to the report, the United States has only paid $260 billion in interest on the war debt. The total interest cost is expected to reach into the trillions.
This has left many programs in the United States in peril. Since President Bush and his Administration had no means to pay for the war, and cut taxes during the same period of time, the United States has a mounting budget deficit that cannot be resolved by simply cutting programs.
The United States has an obligation to keep, not only to the citizens, but also to the military. This commitment will require an expansion of the tax-base, not a reduction. The cost of the war is not simply the cost of the bombs dropped or bullets shot. It is not simply the cost of the vehicles or the pay for the troops. The true cost of war extends much further than that. In fact, it may be several decades before the true cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are found.
The report states: “The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, taken together, will be the most expensive wars in US history—totaling somewhere between $4 trillion and $6 trillion. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”
“Another major share of the long-term costs of the wars comes from paying off trillions of dollars in debt incurred as the US government failed to include their cost in annual budgets and simultaneously implemented sweeping tax cuts for the rich. In addition, huge expenditures are being made to replace military equipment used in the two wars. The report also cites improvements in military pay and benefits made in 2004 to counter declining recruitment rates as casualties rose in the Iraq war.”
The authors of this report have warned that the legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.
According to the Harvard University report, some 1.56 million US troops—56 per cent of all Afghanistan and Iraq veterans—were receiving medical treatment at Veterans Administration facilities and would be granted benefits for the rest of their lives.
“One out of every two veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan has already applied for permanent disability benefits. The official figure of 50,000 American troops “wounded in action” vastly underestimates the real human costs of the two US wars. One-third of returning veterans are being diagnosed with mental health issues—suffering from anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
The report notes that in addition, over a quarter of a million troops have suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which, in many cases, were combined with PTSD, posing greater problems in treatment and recovery.
“Constituting a particularly grim facet of this mental health crisis is the doubling of the suicide rate for US Army personnel, with many who attempted suicide suffering serious injuries,” opine the report authors.
“Overall, the Veterans Administration’s budget has more than doubled over the past decade, from $61.4 billion in 2001 to $140.3 billion in 2013. As a share of the total US budget it has grown from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent over the same period. Soaring medical costs for veterans is attributable to several factors. Among them is that, thanks to advancements in medical technology and rapid treatment, soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have survived wounds that would have cost their lives in earlier conflicts.”
“While the US government has already spent $134 billion on medical care and disability benefits for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, this figure will climb by an additional $836 billion over the coming decades.”
It notes that the largest expenditures on health care for World War II veterans took place in the 1980s, roughly four decades after the war, and that spending on medical care and disability payments for Vietnam War veterans was still on the rise.
Here follows the description:
“The most common medical problems suffered by troops returning from the two wars include: diseases of the musculoskeletal system (principally joint and back disorders); mental health disorders; central nervous system and endocrine system disorders; as well as respiratory, digestive, skin and hearing disorders. Overall, some 29 per cent of these troops have been diagnosed with PTSD.”
“Among the most severely wounded are 6,476 soldiers and Marines who have suffered “severe penetrating brain injury,” and another 1,715 who have had one or more limbs amputated. Over 30,000 veterans are listed as suffering 100 percent service-related disabilities, while another 145,000 are listed as 70 to 90 percent disabled.”
“The worst of these casualties have taken place under the Obama administration as a result of the so-called surge that the Democratic president ordered in Afghanistan.”
It mentions that the Walter Reed Medical Centre, US Army’s flagship hospital at Washington DC, was treating hundreds of recent amputees and severe casualties, adding that this facility had received 100 amputees for treatment during 2010; 170 amputees in 2011; and 107 amputees in 2012.
“Massive direct spending on the two imperialist interventions continues. With over 60,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, it is estimated that the cost of deploying one American soldier for one year in this war amounts to $1 million. These troops continue suffering casualties—including in so-called “green on blue” attacks by Afghan security forces on their ostensible allies. As they are brought home, they will further drive up the costs of medical care and disability compensation. The US is maintaining a vast diplomatic presence in Iraq, including at least 10,000 private contractors providing support in security, IT, logistics, engineering and other occupations; as well as logistics support and payments for leased facilities in Kuwait.”
The Republicans lied their way into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with no exit plan and no way to pay for it, and are now trying to paint the picture that it was the Democrats who destroyed the economy.
They are now trying to convince the public that the only answer is cutting programs like SNAP, Medicare and Social Security. While the message may resonate with some Republicans, a majority of Americans cannot be fooled so easily in the short amount of time that has passed. It is time for Republicans to start presenting real solutions to fix the mess they created, rather than distracting the public from their shameful failures.
February 10, 2014 by ewillies
Karen Menke on Poverty
Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” to address the problems of the many Americans who were living hopeless lives with little chance of being lifted out of poverty. In 1964, I was a recent college grad working for a Republican Congressman in Washington. As a member of House Education Committee, my boss worked both with the President and sometimes against the President to improve the outcomes for poor Americans. This was a bipartisan issue and Republicans had a important role in creating the new legislation. During the 1960′s and afterwards, a number of programs were implemented or expanded including Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, Food Stamps and raising the minimum wage. Despite claims by some that these programs have done nothing to cut poverty or that a certain percentage of the population will always be poor, a significant decrease in poverty has been accomplished.
The Census Bureau has reported that the government social safety net programs have cut the poverty rate nearly in half and that such benefits have lifted 41 million people out of poverty. This includes nearly 9 million children. One of the most dramatic decreases is in the elderly poor. In 1960, about 35% of elderly Americans were poor. This rate in 2012 was only 9%. It is estimated that without government aid the poverty rate would have been 31% in 2012. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, 27 million people annually are lifted out of poverty by these programs. Some examples of successes: The teenage birthrate has fallen dramatically in the past 20 years in large part because of family planning help for at-risk teen girls. Studies of the results of Head Start Programs show that improved life outcomes have occurred with more high school graduates and a greater number going on to college or to jobs. In addition, job training programs have produced dramatic successes in training and retraining the working poor.
Full article below.
Raising the Standard For a Better Tomorrow
I normally like to take this section on Sunday morning to write about scriptures that are important to me. Today, I want to do something different.
This past week, I let myself get pulled into a political debate, on twitter of all places. In the process, I was told that, because I am a Democrat, I have no morals or values. I wanted to respond, but could not find the words to express how I felt within 140 characters or less. Instead, I chose to respond here. I will start with a little about myself.
Growing up, my grandparents lived on a farm. I spent my weeks during the school year in Northeast Harris County, in the Sheldon
area. It was your typical blue collar suburb. I spent my weekends and several weeks each summer at my grandparents’ farm. My grandparents lived a very simplistic lifestyle. They lived through the depression, and when the depression was over, they lived like they were still in the depression for the rest of their lives. Out at the farm, I was first exposed to John Wayne movies, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers music, and my love of nature. There was no air conditioning, but I don’t remember ever complaining. We only had one tv station (Brazos Valley TV), but I enjoyed running through the woods, messing with the cows, climbing in the barn, or sitting on the front porch talking to my Grandma and Grandpa more than watching tv anyway.
Back at home, my dad was a pipefitter. He was, and still is, the hardest working person I have ever met. More importantly, he would do anything for us children. We often went fishing, hung out in the woods, and played catch in the yard. These experiences are where I got my basic values from.
When I was in the 8th grade, I began attending a local Baptist church. I gave my life to Christ, started attending youth church, and began playing in the church band. These church people were some of the nicest, most kind hearted people I had ever met. I immediately got involved. Throughout high school, I was part of the Christian club all four years. I was president of the Christian club my junior and senior year. I was part of a group that prayed at the flag pole almost every single morning before school, even when it was cold or raining. Our thought was that, raining or not, Jesus went to the cross for us, we could stand in the rain to pray. I carried my Bible with me everywhere, I wrote papers trying to convert my literature teachers, and I played drums and keyboards in several church bands that toured the area.
My first business card. All contact info is now incorrect.
In the 11th grade, I met a local youth pastor who let me preach my first sermon. It went great, and he started letting me preach once or twice a month in the youth services. With that, I started preaching around the area. I printed up business cards, calling myself a youth evangelist, and got busy preaching to my fellow youth as much as possible.
When I graduated from high school, I accepted a volunteer position as a youth pastor at a small baptist church and dedicated the summer to that. The next fall, I entered college as a theology major, ready to learn more about the Bible, and learn I did.
My first year in college, I took a course on the New Testament that focused on the Life and Teachings of Christ. The professor ran the class in a socratic, open ended kind of way. We had reading assignments before each class, and then went to class and discussed what we read, looked at many different interpretations of each section, and challenged them in numerous ways. With this, for the first time, my Bible study wasn’t consisting of a preacher standing in front of a group demanding “THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS AND YOU BETTER NOT THINK OTHERWISE”, but it was a group of people studying and figuring out as many types of interpretations as possible, and debating the validity of them all. This was life changing to me. As I went through that semester, we studied the life and teachings of Christ in great detail and it didn’t take me long to realize that the Jesus I was reading about and contemplating on in the Bible was not the Jesus I had been hearing about, and preaching myself, all of these years. To me, Christianity was no longer about Leviticus 19, but about loving our neighbor and helping those in need, and fighting for a greater, more accepting human nature in us all.
I immediately stopped preaching. Being in a situation where I was looking at many different ways of interpreting scripture and having nobody to tell me “this is how it is”, I didn’t know for sure what I believed anymore. And I knew that it was a good thing, because its better to have no idea what you believe, but be searching for the correct beliefs than it is to be sincerely wrong and dogmatic in your beliefs, right?
In my freshman American history class that year, we could pick any book that involved American history and write a paper over it. I searched the school library and found Perry Miller’s 1949 biography of the famous American revivalist, Jonathan Edwards. I was very familiar with “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God”, the most famous sermon Edwards had ever preached, but I wanted to know more about the man who preached that sermon. In studying the life of Edwards, I found a man who had an intense faith in God, but who also challenged the theological assumptions of his day. Just like in my Bible class, he refused to accept, with blind faith, whatever the preacher said, but studied intensely, examining every part of the Bible and being well versed in philosophy and logic at the same time.
This book inspired me to study church history. I read primary sources from the greatest Christian ministers of the past few centuries. I read Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley, Finney, Sturgeon, and everything else I could get my hands on. I read about the First and Second Great Awakenings, Azusa Street, Smith Wigglesworth, the charismatic movement, and everything the local library and the internet could provide me with information on.
My second year in college, I took a philosophy class and it further opened up my eyes. I read ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle and they made me think in ways I had never thought before. I read Christian philosophers like Augustine, Aquinas, and Kierkegaard and was consistently amazed at their interpretations. I read Nietzsche and thought about my notions of self, who I was, and how I came to be identified that way.
Within a year, everything about me was challenged to the core. I became a blank slate. I used to think I was so right about everything, but here I was, as ignorant as could be. Like Descartes, I knew that I could think, but not much else.
Eventually things started to make a small amount of sense. I noticed that, as I read Christian ministers and thinkers throughout history, their messages, what they chose to emphasize, and how they interpreted the Bible differed every generation. It seemed that what people emphasized about the Bible had a lot more to do with themselves and the culture that they lived in than it had to do with the Bible and the teachings of Jesus. I thought about my own culture, a Southern culture, roughly 100 years divorced from the American frontier, with its focus on individualism and masculinity. I thought about my own culture, less than 50 years separated from the Cold War and our fight against communism. I thought about my own culture, still experiencing the conservative backlash from 2nd wave feminism, the Vietnam Anti-war movement, the New Left Movement, and Civil Rights. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed that the Christianity I was taught (with a few exceptions) had more to do with the culture that came out of those things that it did with the Bible. Suddenly, it all made sense how the meek, loving, accepting Jesus who was a friend of sinners, who lived a life of simplicity, who healed and helped everyone could be replaced by fire and brimstone preachers who condemned others for homosexuality but never condemned themselves for the gluttony that occurred right after church was over, who never preached a simplistic lifestyle of giving but always talked about how God wants to make us rich, who preached a theology of selfishness that focuses on self instead the love of others like Jesus preached. It all made sense.
In 2001, I was 17 years old, and I supported George W. Bush to the core. Looking back, it had little to do with my own thoughts and a lot to do with what they taught me at church. By 2004, my Christian beliefs had pushed me to the left of the political system. By 2004, the Democratic Party and John Kerry were too conservative for my taste. In 2004, I voted for Ralph Nader and considered myself part of the Green Party. I had not fully developed all of my political or religious beliefs, but I could not sit by and watch our environment that my grandparents taught me to love at an early age be destroyed by corporate profits and greed. I could not stand by and watch America enter into wars against people who never did anything to us. I could not stand by and watch as healthcare costs went through the roof, insurance companies denied paying customers coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and working people died at younger ages than rich people due to lack of preventative care. I could not stand by and watch as gay people were condemned and discriminated against because they happened to love someone different than the majority. I could not morally stand by and watch as young people who grew up in America were deported because of the fact that they got here when they were 2 years old instead of being born here. As a Christian, I did not understand how I could support any of that Republican legislation. Jesus loved people, he healed people, and he said to turn the other cheek. The only times Jesus got angry was when he was talking to the Pharisees and the money changers. He got mad at the Pharisees because they were looking down on others and judging them. To me, that sounded like the Republican Party and like mainstream evangelical Christianity. He got mad at the moneychangers because they put greed and love of money ahead of their love of God and love of their fellow man. To me, that sounded like the Republican Party.
As a Christian, I could not be a Republican. It was against my morals and values. By 2008, I had grown up a little more and Sarah Palin was running for Vice President. As a Vice Presidential candidate, she bothered me. She bothered me for many reasons, but one was her exploitation of Christianity. In one speech, she claimed that it was God’s will that we drill for oil in Alaska. In another video, she claimed that it was God’s will that we be at war in Iraq. I thought for sure Christians would turn on her and see that they were being manipulated. Instead, I watched as Christians flocked to the polls to support her. I desperately didn’t want to see her get elected, so in 2008, at the age of 25, I joined the Democratic Party and supported Senator Obama for President.
Contrary to what many of my Republican brothers and sisters tell me, I am still a Christian, but my Christianity is based upon the model of Jesus. I am nowhere near perfect. Please don’t hold me as a standard. But my goal is to follow his model, to put others ahead of myself, to serve instead of being served, to teach and encourage others to be their best, to accept others, to help the poor and the broken, and to fight for a great society.
On a final note, this article is in no way meant as a condemnation upon my Christian brothers and sisters who I disagree with. Each person should follow their faith in the way their conscience drives them. I am nobody to judge. My purpose is to defend myself, and others like me, against people who claim that, in following my faith, I am less of a Christian. I know that many Republican Christians are not going to read this and join the Democratic Party, but I hope they will read this and stop feeling the need to denounce my Christianity simply because I have a different political stance than they do.
by: Katie Singh
Wed Feb 05, 2014 at 04:30 PM CST
Greg Abbott unveiled his latest policy proposal in Dallas yesterday, a border security proposal that Abbott called his "Securing Texans Plan." Abbott’s proposal would double spending on border security, costing $300 million over the next 2 years. He has called for hiring 500 more state troopers and spending millions on new high-tech security equipment.
In his speech, Abbott justified his proposal by comparing the South Texas border region to a third-world country. Said Abbott: "This creeping corruption resembles third world country practices that erode the social fabric of our communities and destroy Texans’ trust and confidence in government."
His entire proposal was replete with militaristic rhetoric that characterized South Texas as a war zone that wasn’t really part of Texas. In describing his border plan, Abbott said, "We must do more to protect our border going beyond sporadic surges…I’ll add more boots on the ground, more assets in the air and on the water, and deploy more technology and tools for added surveillance." He instead proposed a "continuous surge" of state troopers to the region.
Abbott’s comments about South Texas are yet another example of his hostility toward the Latino community. He has refused to take a firm stance on the DREAM Act. One of Abbott’s former staffers was responsible last fall’s racist "Catch an Illegal Immigrant" game at UT, and the Abbott campaign seemingly lied about how long he was on Abbott’s payroll. Now, he’s referring to South Texas as a third-world country, offensively stereotyping a region where millions of Latinos live. Greg Abbott has shown that he prefers to rely on xenophobia to provoke his right-wing base rather than reach out and include all Texans.
Understandably, Abbott’s distasteful comments have provoked a major backlash across Texas.
Read what Texas progressives had to say about Greg Abbott’s comments after the jump.
Grassroots activists responded quickly to Abbott’s remarks. The Travis Country Democratic Party helped organize a protest outside Greg Abbott’s Austin office this afternoon to speak out against his offensive mischaracterization of South Texas.
Soon after Greg Abbott’s border speech, Wendy Davis’s campaign released a statement condemning the remarks. Said Campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuña:
"Actions speak louder than words, and Greg Abbott’s actions are downright hostile. Greg Abbott’s positions don’t vary much from the ‘stop the invasion’ rhetoric we’re hearing from his allies. Abbott even went as far as comparing the Texas border to a third world country. Unlike Greg Abbott, Senator Davis has a strong record of fighting for all Texans."
Battleground Texas Deputy Field Director Daniel Lucio saw the remarks as yet another reminder that Greg Abbott is out of touch with millions of Texans:
"Greg Abbott’s plan for South Texas is both offensive and completely out of touch. By dismissing the Rio Grande Valley, my home, as a third-world country and thinking that more state troopers and investigations will fix everything, Abbott has made it clear that he has no idea what day to day life is like for millions of Texans that he claims to want to represent.
Like all Texans, people in the Rio Grande Valley want opportunities to pursue education, access to healthcare, and good jobs. Abbott and the Texas GOP have done little to address those fundamentals. But they’ve excelled at painting a caricature of the Valley to play to those in their base who are hostile to Texas’ diverse culture and values.
Texas can do better. And the Rio Grande Valley will do its part to prove that this November.
State Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg), who represents part of South Texas, called on Abbott to apologize for the offensive remarks:
"Republican Greg Abbott says the Republican Party is a friend of minorities, then he falsely condemns the region where millions of Mexican Americans live and work as being corrupt. Republican Greg Abbott says he wants to lead all of Texas as governor, then he defames a vital region of Texas as being a ‘Third-World Country.’
What kind of Texas leader tells the whole world that the most important state in America has ‘Third-World’ conditions, which sends the extremely damaging message that Texans are uneducated, unskilled, controlled by drug lords and other thugs, and served by incompetent local and county governments? It shows how much contempt that Greg Abbott has for millions of his fellow citizens. With so-called friends like Greg Abbott, who needs enemies?
A true Texan always admits when he or she is wrong, and does whatever it takes to make it right. But not Greg Abbott. He is not what Texas leadership is all about."
Right-wing media figures rushed to claim the Affordable Care Act will destroy 2 million jobs, citing a new Congressional Budget Office report, but that’s not what the report found — the CBO report projected that the law will give workers the freedom to voluntarily reduce their employment after gaining health insurance.
The CBO released its Budget and Economic Outlook for the years 2014 to 2024 on February 4, which projected in part that the number of full-time workers would decline by about 2 million by 2017. Right-wing media quickly pounced on the report to distort the CBO’s projections about the ACA’s effect on future employment.
In a post on her Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin claimed the report "confirms what critics have been saying all along: Obamacare is killing jobs and squelching growth." On Fox, America’s News HQ co-host Alisyn Camerota claimed "a bombshell new CBO report" found that "Obamacare will be much worse for the economy than previously predicted," and Fox Business host Lou Dobbs added it is "another round of devastating numbers for all Americans because the result of this is there will be fewer jobs":
The CBO makes it clear that the decrease in workers is not due to jobs being lost — rather, the ACA will allow workers to choose to work less. The projected change is in the supply of labor, not the demand for labor, and thus the CBO noted that the decrease would not lead to a corresponding increase in unemployment or underemployment (emphasis added):
The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect. The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).
In a Los Angeles Times post, Michael Hiltzik explained that the difference between a decrease in the supply of labor and demand for labor is significant, quoting economist Dean Baker who noted that the change "is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law":
The CBO projects that the act will reduce the supply of labor, not the availability of jobs. There’s a big difference. In fact, it suggests that aggregate demand for labor (that is, the number of jobs) will increase, not decrease; but that many workers or would-be workers will be prompted by the ACA to leave the labor force, many of them voluntarily.
As economist Dean Baker points out, this is, in fact, a beneficial effect of the law, and a sign that it will achieve an important goal. It helps "older workers with serious health conditions who are working now because this is the only way to get health insurance. And (one for the family values crowd) many young mothers who return to work earlier than they would like because they need health insurance. This is a huge plus."
The ACA will reduce the total hours worked by about 1.5% to 2% in 2017 to 2024, the CBO forecasts, "almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor–given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive." That translates into about 2.5 million full-time equivalents by 2024–not the number of workers, because some will reduce their number of hours worked rather than leaving the workforce entirely.
The right-wing media’s failure to correctly interpret the CBO’s findings is not surprising, considering a similar report released in 2011 was seized on by conservatives who falsely claimed the law would eliminate 800,000 jobs.