Congressional schism might be easing
We witnessed an encouraging sign on Oct. 16 that the schism paralyzing the U.S. Congress may be easing. A bipartisan group of 87 House Republicans and 198 Democrats passed the Senate Budget Compromise, which ended the government shutdown and averted a default on United States obligations and a potential international financial crisis.
It was heartening to see 87 Republican representatives rise above their party’s shift to rigid, anti-government obstructionism. Rejecting the politics of fear and ideology, they did what was right for our country and the vast majority of Americans. It’s a potential re-awakening of the democratic process through which we can mutually promote and enhance the common good.
However, the disruptive threat of the extreme right wing is still present. Even our own U.S. Rep. Greg Walden apparently bowed to tea party pressure by voting “No” on Oct. 16.. (The Club for Growth is supporting a primary challenge to Walden at www.primarymycongressman.com.)
On the other hand, wealthy Republican business donors like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are now alarmed by the threat of a U.S. default. They are unnerved at the recklessness that threatens to tear down the entire economy and scuttle their golden egg.
The wealthy 1 percent have profited greatly from productivity increases from globalization, automation, and union busting over the past 35 years. They have, shortsightedly, enjoyed the low wages they pay, as the rest of us fight over ever-fewer family wage jobs. And they have tolerated absolutist, tea party hard-liners to protect their low taxes and loose government regulation. Perhaps they will now step in and promote needed rational behavior.
The Oct. 16 agreement also opened up negotiations between the House and Senate on the FY 2014 budget. (According to PolitiFact.com, these budget negotiations have been blocked since April by Senate tea party Republicans, who feared they might lead to much-needed tax increases.) Possibly, the current House-Senate budget conference will make a further positive step toward ending legislative gridlock.
Let’s encourage Rep. Walden to join moderate, rational Republicans, renounce the anti-democratic minority, and follow the bipartisan precedent of Oct. 16.
Can we solve healthcare problem locally?
We have recently had four letters to the editor concerning health care. Thank you, Mr. Dielman, for getting this conversation started, and Mr. Augenfeld, Mr. Schoenfeld and Mr. Sundin for expressing problems and potential solutions. I also am concerned, but not able to track how each repair would look if implemented. Last year I obtained a copy of Obamacare from Sen. Wyden’s office but unfortunately it is the legislator’s condensed version so I really cannot know the details.
In order for Democrats to accept a healthcare system it must cover the poor and needy. In order for Republicans to accept a healthcare system it must not be under the control of the federal government as that is not constitutional, or be an enabling system easily milked by slothful or greedy people.
Is there a way to eliminate greedy insurance companies by creating three or four nationwide nonprofit insurance companies? If Republicans want a no-government-involved health system, would they be willing to expect local wealthy people to get together as private citizens and pay for the insurance policies of their local poor and needy? Surely they would be more able to find out who is truly in need and who is malingering. Malingering is a serious problem in any system given the sinful human nature.
Perhaps all the churches in an area could get together and open a clinic for the poor and needy of their area manned by local doctors and dentists taking turns, and leave the wealthy to pay for high-deductible insurance policies for them.
Senior Center helps to curb loneliness
My husband and I moved to Baker County, and to our surprise found a community of people who still believed in working for a living, that children come first, and a handshake still means something.
We quickly became involved with different organizations and my dear husband’s love was helping out with the school’s sports programs.
Life was wonderful but things happen and not always to the good. We were both diagnosed with cancer on the same day. I made it but my spouse did not.
Suddenly my lifestyle changed. Decisions had to be made. One of the hardest for me was where to live. Stay in Baker or move closer to my children.
I loved the slower pace of the town and the people who I had become friends with, so Baker City is now my home.
For those of you who have lost a loved one, you know that those empty hours take a toll. I started going to the Community Center for lunch and have felt that this has given me my life back.
The group I eat with is a fun-loving bunch. We laugh, joke and share our stories. We look out for each other and if someone doesn’t show up, calls are made.
All ages are welcome at the Center. Did I mention that the food is great?
Try it out. The only thing you would lose would be the loneliness of sitting at home every day.
Federal policies threaten Baker County’s economy
As if destroying the timber industry a few decades ago through its bogus science protection of the spotted owl was not harmful enough, the federal government is on the verge of administering a death blow to many ranchers in our western states. Worst case, that will include the state of Oregon and our county of Baker. Once again prostrating themselves on the altar of junk science our federal “partners” now propose to close off literally millions of acres of grazing land in order to protect the sage grouse. I’m not a rancher but many of my good friends are. They depend on grazing allotments on federal land for their livestock. Much of that federal land, some here in our county, has been labeled sage grouse habitat.
So focused are the misguided feds on implementing the UN’s Agenda 21 that they intentionally ignore the numerous studies conducted by reputable scientists that show, clearly, that sage grouse actually thrive on properly managed grazed land. But, no, to the feds ranchers are the enemy of the clean environment they allegedly are so committed to “protecting.” The federal government, though you certainly couldn’t tell it by watching the current administration, exists to promote the “common good.” Last time I checked producing livestock for the marketplace, and doing so in the responsible manner typical of Baker County ranchers, is a huge chunk of the common good in our region.
The federal government is out of hand. Closing public access to the public’s land, and now recommending the closure of public land to responsible grazing are but two of the many steps this administration is taking to collapse our economy and force socialism upon us. If that happens we will be nothing better than a third world country which, I suppose, will make the current occupier of the White House very happy. Wake up people before it is too late if not for us then for our children and grandchildren. Vote out the current, rotten crop in Congress and replace them with real Americans.
America can’t ignore the cost of Medicare
Gary Dielman loves Medicare and thinks that everyone should be enrolled in some similar program. But he leaves out some important information in his hymn of praise for that program — its long range prospects. They are not so rosy.
Medicare already spends more each year than it takes in. This will only get worse as more and more baby boomers retire. As things stand, Medicare will be bankrupt in about a decade. Worse yet, it has an unfunded future liability of $30 trillion. The program’s own officials say that Obamacare does nothing to correct this situation.
European countries are learning that the cornucopia of government goodies does have a bottom, and several of them already are getting awfully close to it. Greece is the poster child for out-of-control entitlements, and has narrowly escaped national bankruptcy only by being bailed out by other countries. We are on that same path, just not as far along as Greece.
We have already had a warning shot across our bows. For the first time in history, our bond rating has been downgraded from AAA to AA. The reason given? It’s the huge unfunded liabilities of our country’s entitlement programs. We will not be upgraded back to AAA until Medicare and our other entitlement programs are restructured and put on a more financially sound basis.
We must get that situation corrected as quickly as possible. Otherwise, our legacy to our children and grandchildren is going to be one of crippling debt.
Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has submitted a plan to Congress which would do just that. Current retirees would continue under the present Medicare program, but future retirees would have the option to choose some other financially sound health care program. But Democrats are officially in a state of denial. They assert that Medicare has no long term problems, and they adamantly refuse to consider any significant changes to the program. They are content to continue kicking the can down the road, leaving future generations to clean up the mess they will left behind.
Be careful what you post on Facebook
In most households, one or more members regularly use Facebook, revealing personal information to the entire cyber world. An avid Facebook user myself, I’m at times amazed what people will post. The following story might make you think twice about what you post on Facebook. As it should!
For the most part, I have a rule against posting personal information on social sites. However, recently I posted information after having surgery. The thought process was to thank my many friends for supporting me with their prayers and comments. At first, it seemed a great idea, and much easier than sending 2,300 thank-you notes. Many posted their get-well wishes, and my heart was filled with joy.
A friend ask if I needed anything. “A huge bottle of Tylenol” I replied. The next thing you know, I was holding the biggest bottle of acetaminophen I’d ever seen! The whole neighborhood must have heard my laughter. I could not keep this to myself! I posted a picture of the bottle with a note stating “Well, I ask for a bottle of Tylenol, lol!” The comments started pouring in. “I hope he gave you something better than that, just out of surgery,” one man replied. This is where I turned stupid.
“Yes, he did,” I replied. “He gave me Oxycodone 5mg, but, they make me feel disconnected.” The very next day four people knocked upon my door. Two of whom I did not know, one neighbor, and one person whom I had spoken to briefly as he passed the house. One even sent his mother the next day! I heard every excuse for why, “If I could only spare a couple” how much better their life would be. One claiming cancer.
It was at this moment I learned a valuable lesson. Posting personal information on Facebook could have dangerous consequences! Those folks who showed up, they could have robbed and/or killed me; all for narcotics! Addiction is a powerful thing. It brought total strangers to my home. And, there are perverts and criminals lurking on all these sites! What are you or your children posting? Is this the feedback you want?
Former HBC director responds to newspaper story
First of all, I haven’t left the area ... as a matter of fact, I spent about an hour in the Herald office today, just chatting ...
Second, I wasn’t fired. It is this very sort of reporting without checking facts that has made it untenable to work here. If I were associated with the Herald, I would check with Clair Button and several others why HBC had to spend money it should not have had to spend. Get the facts straight or don’t bother reporting it.
Get rid of smartphones and I’ll go back to a muzzle loader
I just read a letter to the editor from a lady from Portland — where else? — saying that we should completely ban guns. Maybe she is right. I’m sure that human nature has changed since the Founders divided government into three competing branches and had a Bill of Rights guaranteeing our freedoms. Evidently we can completely trust government now.
She does make a point. At the time of the founding of the nation we just had muzzle-loading rifles. Now the government we trust has fully automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines. Along the lines of the urban liberal thoughts about those first weapons we should remember that the means of communication at the time was pen and ink and a printing press. So if you will give up your television, radio, smartphones, computers and the Internet I will go back to a muzzle loader.
Obamacare is a small step, when we need a giant one
I completely agree with Mr. Dielman’s Oct. 16 letter about the U.S. medical care financial chaos. So-called Obamacare is a tiny and incremental improvement; but, in my humble opinion, Obamacare is more of a “welfare for insurers” program than any giant step toward a sane (i.e., single-payer) national med-care financing system.
My pretty good and dear wife of 42 years has been in various hospitals since July 30, 2013. She’s now 66 years old, so U.S. Medicare pays most of the billings. After numerous visits to several hospitals in Baker City and Boise, my already pretty high respect for RNs has gone way up. RNs are the true backbone of an otherwise chaotic U.S. med-care system; and, RNs (rather than insurance company execs and coding nerds) deserve a max share of every dollar that we pay for med-care.
MDs are OK, too; but, if every MD at some big hospital took a week off, the RNs would muddle through. If all their RNs took just one day off, by noon of that day, same big hospital’s operations would implode.
We can revive economy if we just use our resources
The economic crisis is not over. This problem didn’t just happen, it was created by shortsighted, wrong-headed thinking by government officials over the last 40 years. It won’t be cured by government money manipulations or working the printing presses overtime.
First we must recognize the basic facts of life.
No person, company or country can continue to spend more than they earn.
We need jobs and money. All new wealth comes from the ground, there is no other source. It is created when we harvest the produce and resources of the earth. It is expanded when they are processed and manufactured into more valuable productions.
In the guise of protecting the environment, government agencies have so seriously regulated these industries that many of them curtailed or shut down or moved overseas.
I have been a member of the mining industry for over 60 years and it has been seriously damaged. It is absolutely vital to the economy of this country. You cannot manufacture one single thing without using minerals directly or indirectly.
You can advocate increased American manufacturing, but what do we make things out of? If we have to import the raw materials for our factories, the major differences in our production cost is labor, that puts us in a rough position competitively.
One hundred fifty years ago our forefathers realized that for our country to grow and prosper they had to encourage people to go out into the open land and develop farms and mines, so they passed the Homestead Act that gave people title to land they developed, and they passed mining laws to encourage miners to prospect and open mineral deposits.
The Forest Service and BLM have done everything they can to restrict this production.
The fact is that we have regulated our country out of business.
At no government expense we could greatly stimulate our economy and jobs if we could require our agencies to recognize and obey congressional laws and relax many of the environmental restrictions that have little or no long-range benefit to the majority of the people of our country.
Raffling AR-15 rifle is insensitive
While reading the Record Courier I was shocked to see the Baker County Republicans are raffling off an AR-15 for a fundraiser. After calling multiple state agencies about this raffle apparently this is legal in Oregon and multiple GOP counties are doing it. Just think of the outrage if they raffled 100 cartons of cigarettes, what sort of a reaction could we expect? Cigarettes are legal, too. This simply sends an unfortunate message.
State Sen. Ginny Burdick who has backed unsuccessful legislation that would have outlawed military-style semi-automatic rifles, expressed disgust with these types of drawing in a recent article in the Oregonian:
“Five thousand people have been shot to death since Sandy Hook,” she said, referring to last December’s shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, “and for the Republicans to be out there with this gun as their emblem is in very poor taste. But it is a free country.”
I say forget the assault weapons ban, it’s time to ban guns completely. The idea that it is unreasonable to demand a complete ban on guns, while the gun lobby refuses to give an inch, is a prime example of complete right-wing denial. How is it good and proper for Oregon to prohibit gay marriage, but controlling guns would be an unconscionable limit on “freedom.” Why do people even need guns? When the founding fathers created the Second Amendment they were referencing muskets not machine guns with maximum clip sizes. Look at the thousands of people who have been shot to death since Sandy Hook and the recent shooting in Grant County that killed two people from Baker City. We need to start far more drastic measures against guns if we are going to save our children and ourselves. It is far past time to call for a total ban on guns. And if it takes a constitutional amendment, so be it.
Regardless of where you stand on the gun debate, this AR-15 raffle is insensitive and horrible political messaging. The GOP is going to continue to lose elections unless their messaging improves dramatically.
Laura J. Link
Another possible solution to nation’s health care issue
Replacing Obamacare with a single-payer system of medicine as Gary Dielman advocates seems like a good idea. Medicine for profit will lead to abuse by the insurance companies — and by the MDs themselves, as they are after all human too. How many ineffective or damaging therapies and procedures have we seen phased out slowly so that we might not notice it? And we must wonder how many are still in place. I recently tried to get access to the OHSU medical library to try to clear up some medical matters and was told that I would need to be appointed to the medical faculty to receive online library privileges. This is a library system paid for with my tax dollars! Which brings up why a single-payer system wouldn’t work in our current top-down political system: collusion between the medical system and government, as well as the influence of drug companies.
In 1983 when I started working in hospitals, the government tried to introduce Diagnostic Related Groups (DRGs) a scheme to fix payments for any particular condition. If a hospital could direct treatment successfully for less, they would pocket the difference and standard reimbursements could then be whittled down. The doctors, administrators and insurance companies killed that one in a hurry! It would have been an example of how, with intelligent and responsible government oversight, medicine-for-profit could work. (There is also the matter of how under the present system, one can patent anything that works — including drugs — but not medical therapies.)
The solution I am proposing is a mixed one. The government would determine a reasonable payment for each diagnosis, subject to adjustment based upon details of the case. The patient would then be free to go to any provider that would accept that reimbursement (voucher) amount. The government would also offer an option of free medical service and hospitalization, manned by licensed personnel. Thus an open for-profit system and a socialized system would be in direct competition. The result, I am sure, would be a dramatic reduction in the overall cost of effective medical care.
R. Mack Augenfeld
Baker City Senior Center is truly a special place
The recent letter from Ramona and John Creighton was right on. I would like to add my story.
My late husband, Leo, and I began visiting the Senior Center in 1980 or so, when it was housed in the Extension Building. Leo soon joined the Buddy Band which played for every dance or function requiring music until he had to put away his beloved saxophones about 1998. Leo decorated the hall for every holiday or occasion. I handed him ribbons, pins or tape. Leo was president of the Baker County Seniors for several years. He passed away June 6, 2003.
In 1982, Peggi Timm asked me to be treasurer of the Seniors. I have carefully accounted for every penny — even those found in the pockets of donated clothing or on the pavement of the parking lot. I have asked numerous people if they would like the job. Answers have ranged from “Oh, I don’t think so” to “Hell no!” I’ll carry on as long as I can.
Replace Obamacare? Yes, but with single-payer system
Letter writer Pete Sundin and Republicans in Congress do not like Obamacare. Yet Sundin and the Republicans offer no solution for fixing what the U.S. presently has: the most expensive and yet ineffective health insurance system among the world’s First World countries.
Our counterparts in Canada and Europe provide health insurance for ALL of their citizens at almost a THIRD less cost and get better results. Why do I emphasize “third?” Because that is the profit raked off the top by extremely inefficient, profit-minded insurance companies, before they pay a dime for your medical care.
Get rid of private insurance companies and replace them with a government-run, single-payer system and what do you have? Medicare! Take a poll of Americans and ask them if they want to get rid of Medicare, which manages the health insurance of our senior citizens with a 4 percent overhead, as opposed to the corporate insurance industry’s 30-plus percent. Only Tea Party types would advocate turning over Medicare to private insurance.
Obamacare has its flaws — the biggest one being it’s not a single-payer system — but at least it does not leave uncovered 30 million of our poorest citizens in this most affluent country in the world. And under Obamacare insurance companies may not turn anyone down for pre-existing health problems.
Better than playing political brinkmanship, why don’t Democrats and Republicans in Congress get behind a single-payer system?
For a good discussion of single-payer health insurance, go to this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-payer_health_care