From South of Left Field: Definite Problems by Jimmie Galbreath

“People with definite plans and definite expectations have definite problems.” My Dad drove me crazy with this little gem in my early years. I still have no idea where he got it. Somehow today it seems appropriate to our fractured nation.

The internet abounds with funny, comforting little memes suggesting simplistic solutions to issues that are interconnected and complex. Build a wall, ban gays, kill someone with bombs or drones, $15 minimum wage, the simple solutions go on and on. Like a child’s mobile no one part can actually be touched without every part moving as a result. Not that leaving it alone means nothing changes, everything changes as time passes.

We live in a complex ‘system’ that changes over time. No company, no government, no economy and certainly no society is ever unchanging. Even religion changes over time. Otherwise, the Crusades, witch trials and the Inquisition would still be with us. When an imbalance in our ‘system’ rises to the point of becoming a definite problem such as police violence, mass shootings, income inequality, lack of medical care and so on the social discourse settles onto some simple solution or particular plan. These definite plans come with a definite expectation of quick resolution that is seldom met.

Let me paint a picture and see if it makes sense to you. A stable ‘system’ would have the wealthy (corporate) and general population both exerting a fairly balanced influence on the government. The government should function to regulate the opposing desires of wealth concentration on the corporate/wealthy side and a reasonable standard of living on the population side. A good measure of whether this balance exists is the degree of income inequality. After all, more income for a few equals less income for the many. If in fact jobs are being created for the betterment of the many then we should see balanced income growth with all income levels increasing about the same.

Houston, we have a definite problem. Looking at these charts, it is apparent that since about 1980 increases in income have been largely confined to the upper 20% and the rest of us have been losing income. Now comes the definite expectation, the belief that the answer to this starts with an increase in the minimum wage. Folks I hate to point this out but the minimum wage is not why the increases in income are going to the top 20%. Government guides income increase through the tax codes, not the minimum wage! This doesn’t mean the higher minimum wage is a bad idea; it means it doesn’t do anything to address the actual problem.

Here’s another definite expectation, the belief that this can or will be addressed by one of the two existing political parties. The truth is that the tax codes and laws that have tilted the ‘system’ to favor those already wealthy were enacted by these two parties. Like everyone in a capitalist economy, the Parties work for money. That is why the Democrats push for the $15 minimum wage and the Republicans push for tax breaks for business. These things don’t change the cause of the ever increasing inequality; it is just a pretense at change that has no real impact.

The existing political parties are graveyards of popular political movements from both the right and left. Don’t believe it? Ask the Tea Party where the ACA repeal is. Watch as the Democratic Party slowly tries to absorb the Bernie folks and smother them in useless quibbling and ineffective goals like the minimum wage. All the while the wealthy grow ever richer, and we grow ever poorer. The function of the Republican and Democratic Parties is to smother popular will and continue to empower the upper class. The ONLY tool left to us other than open violent revolt is our vote.

So long as we continue to vote for the same old people and same old Parties we will get the same old results. It is insanity to expect anything different. Until the angry and disaffected finally begin to vote and refuse to vote for anyone with an (R) or (D) behind their name nothing is going to change. Think the Green, Independent or Libertarian is a nut? Look at the graph again. Look at our current President. A new Party is needed, one that does not have an existing bureaucracy which is paid by the wealthy and serves to smother the popular will.

The race is on, conditions are not and will not improve so long as the Republican and Democratic Parties have the power. Wealth demands ever more wealth and will rely on the police and military to control us. Over 1,000 citizens a year are already dying under the guns of the Police. That is more than any other country on earth! We have more citizens in prison than any other country in the world and the second highest incarceration rate in the world. These things are not accidents; they are the result of desperation and oppression in a population whose standard of living is falling.

The only way to shake the foundations and hopefully usher in real change is to reject the Republican and Democratic parties completely, shatter them and throw open the doors to new blood. Take risks, seek the people who will enact law and tax code to suppress excessive wealth and rebalance the life of all Americans. If we want America to be Great again, we must create an environment that allows Americans to become Great again. Let’s level the playing field.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned a dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served three years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

From South of Left Field: Bandaids and Broomsticks by Jimmie Galbreath

So much has been put out about Health Care it seems a difficult subject to open any new ground. From the south side of left field, however, something is clearly amiss in all the articles, speeches, announcements and memes, something vital.

To begin with, Health Care in America is first, foremost and always a ‘for profit’ undertaking. Turning that around, if the Medical Industry/Insurance/Hospital/etc. can’t make a profit treating you then they don’t want to treat you. How would you feel seeing someone sick and unwanted? How would you feel if it was someone you knew? When I lived in Mississippi with a wife and two small children, I was confronted by a ‘medical’ decision, delivered by the family physician we had used for nearly 15 years. Our life had taken a bad turn, we had lost our medical insurance, and we were no longer welcome. Please find another doctor. Offering to pay in advance for my children wasn’t good enough, go away. This aspect of medical care in America is real; it was real 20 some odd years ago, it is more real today.

Over the years the cost of anything and everything medical, including profits, has risen faster than either inflation or general income. Medical treatment just like the cost of college is becoming unaffordable to an ever growing portion of the American public. Medicare and Medicaid were created to provide government help to those without any other hope of medical treatment, but the numbers left out in the cold continue to grow, and the coverage has not kept up.

Then the ACA, Obamacare, was created as a vehicle for the government to help the uninsured by providing government payment toward the medical insurance premiums. The ACA didn’t stop there; it added financial penalties for those who didn’t sign up for an insurance policy. Of course, the insurance companies continued to demand ever larger premiums while arguing to be allowed to offer fewer services for the premiums. When they couldn’t get enough money, they quit offering policies. Please understand, this is what a business does. It doesn’t have anything to do with humanity and never will.

We Americans have been taught by business to believe no one does anything and everything better than business does. In truth, the only thing business does make is profit, everything else is secondary – period. We have also been taught by the same pundits that Government can’t tie its own shoelaces and business can improve on everything government does. Let me repeat myself; the only thing business does make is a profit. If you can’t pay for it, you can’t have it.

Now we come to the crux of the matter. Today America stands for the sick and dying only getting the care they can pay for themselves. PERIOD. This is America today. We do not believe a life is worth saving if it is American and poor. This is the message from Washington; this is the message from Wall Street, this is the America others see every day as our politicians quibble and dither and accomplish nothing of worth.

Americans will donate to overseas disasters, politicians spill our blood, dollars, and lives all over the world every day for various causes. We ship food all around the world, but a poor American isn’t worth a Bandaid here at home. The vital piece that is missing is a sense that all Americans are worth caring for. The broomstick? The broomstick should be used to sweep away the politicians struggling mightily every day to protect the medical industry rather than us. So far it only gets used to sweep the suffering under the rug. If this truly is America, it is no wonder we aren’t Great. Greatness begins with the people. Where is our Greatness now?

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in petroleum engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS and then in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

From South of Left Field: Cover and Concealment by Jimmie Galbreath

Let’s see if I get some blowback for this one, Gun Control.

Now, I grew up cutting my teeth on ‘The Lost Cause’ and World War II as an impressionable little redneck. Liberal colleges and Unions were hotbeds of Communism and guns were tools for hunting and killing wild dogs and vultures to protect new born calves (baby cows for you city folk).

A little over the top but it does reflect my background and my view of guns; not automatic weapons and 30 round magazines by any stretch. I would have laughed at someone saying they needed such things for sport. This brings me to the point, why do some people ‘need’ these things?

I know that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are founding documents and they are clearly deserving of our respect. Time and reading have also allowed me to understand that the Constitution was intended to be a living document rather than a fossil. Amendments have been added, and one actually deleted in our history as our earlier generations have made changes to keep up with world developments and social evolution.

Some actions taken to improve our society have been the 13th Amendment (1865) which abolished slavery (finally), the 15th (1869) protected the right to vote regardless of race and the 19th (1919) which allowed women to vote. Now please reread those three again and try to imagine the society and values that required Amendments to state these rights.

Folks, Americans have demonstrated by these three Amendments the growth AND the gap between the world of the Founding Fathers and the world as of 1919. Our society and our world are still changing and what is and is not in our Amendments reflect who we are today. We have passed an Amendment to abolish alcohol, the 18th, and then repealed it with the 21st Amendment. We decided with the 17th Amendment in 1913 to elect our Senators by popular vote rather than let the State Legislatures do it. In short, the idea that a Constitutional Amendment sits on a pedestal set in stone for all time is silly. So is the concept that the Constitution is like a bible, fixed for all time and beyond tampering or improvement.

Now to guns. The Second Amendment states ‘A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ In the 18th Century, this was a concept rooted in the history of England so people would have recourse by combat against their government or with their government in defense against invasion. In the world of black powder muzzle loading guns, muzzle loading smooth bore cannons and uncontrolled free flight rockets that sounds reasonable enough.

In America, the presence of a frontier with raids by or against Native Americans as well as a total absence of law enforcement to shield citizens from criminal attack gave further need for having weapons at hand. For me, the image of the Minuteman reflects the reason for the Second Amendment.

Now passes some hundreds of years from then to now. Welcome to the world of scoped sniper rifles that can kill over one mile away, laser scopes, night vision goggles, grenade launchers, machine guns, mortars, flame throwers, rapid fire artillery, napalm, computer guided missiles, drones, armored personnel carriers, tanks, air strikes, cruise missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons and so much more. That list should paint a picture of what a ‘well-regulated militia’ needs to be ‘necessary to the security of a free state.’

At this point, most would launch into an impassioned argument, but I am largely done. The point here is that for America, times have changed. For our Constitution times have seen it changed to reflect what is hopefully an evolving people. Our struggle to remain a united Nation and to move in the direction of retaining some degree of greatness requires we challenge what is held to be true from time to time.

For myself, I believe the 2nd Amendment is obsolete. State power has grown and changed dramatically, and our best path to internal freedom and a greater sense of security is through our votes, not our guns. The answer to the fear of government is the power of our votes applied in defiance of what any media outlet says. Don’t trust the media, don’t trust the politicians because if we don’t watch them, no one else will. Use your own mind and values and reject all candidates of any Party who don’t pass your own smell test. No vote cast is wasted.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years Nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS than in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

 

Letter to Editor: Time to get Serious about Healthcare

We might recall President Trump admitting to his “great friend” from Australia, ”You have better health care than we do.” That moment of accountability was refreshing.
Perhaps he was reminded that Australia is ranked 4th for positive healthcare outcomes by the Commonwealth Fund, while the U.S. is in last place. We also have the highest drug prices and lowest life expectancies among the nations studied by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the OECD is finding better healthcare outcomes in 29 other industrialized nations, although our costs are by far the highest.

A resident of Scotland visiting relatives in Easton suggested the “big lie” underpinning American health care is that “markets are always more effective than collective action.” She may have a point, considering our outcomes. Capitalism is essential to our economy, but oversight is frequently required in consideration of our general welfare.

Her friends back in the U.K. “thank their lucky stars for universal coverage.” Like the citizens of most other industrialized nations, they have proportionately more physicians and see them more frequently. We were heading to the U.K., too, until their system became overwhelmed, and we were required to do more than establish a local address.

Our own Dr. Andy Harris has been warning us, “Medicare is not single payer,” and suggesting that the marketplace must lead the way. Competition is helpful, but Medicare offers options for additional coverage, as do the single-payer systems of nations whose citizens are spending less, enjoying better outcomes, and living longer.

Once the Affordable Care Act was passed following a year of public hearings, review by 3 congressional committees, and the consideration of 130 amendments. President Obama continued to prioritize reducing costs. A measure he proposed shortly before leaving office would have reimbursed physicians a set amount for the Medicare prescriptions they write rather than basing their reimbursements upon a percentage of the cost of each, thereby encouraging prescribing more expensive medications and driving costs up.

Having attempted to repeal the ACA 60 times over 7 years, Republicans rejected that, too. Now, with control of both the White House and Congress and 7 months of behind-closed-doors meetings, no viable replacement plan has been offered. The Republican health care bill has virtually no industry support and little public support. We have been promised a viable plan within 2 years.

In the meantime, progress is being made. Kaiser Health News and the National Alliance Healthcare Purchasers Coalition are reporting that covering preventive care is paying off. The impacts of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure account for a majority of our health care spending, up to $2.3 trillion per year, yet preventive care for these conditions is rarely covered by insurance with high deductibles.

Coverage for the maintenance of type 1 diabetes is paying off in Minnesota. Over $1 million has been saved on emergency room utilization and hospitalization so far. HealthPartners is suggesting it’s time to change our conversation about healthcare spending.

Our president has made pretty much every statement imaginable concerning health care, from “Everybody’s going to be taken care of,” to “Let it fail,” and “We’re not going to own it.” At this point we might simply hope to hear someone ask, “What good capitalist could argue with better outcomes at less cost?”
Carol. Voyles
Sherwood

From South of Left Field: Leaders, Leaders Nowhere by Jimmie Galbreath

It increasingly bothers me when our elected officials are so casually referred to as leaders. Occupying a position of power doesn’t make someone a leader. I guess it is time to dive into the dirty business headlong.

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Now for those still with me after mentioning those two, please join me in considering the broad view of earlier political campaigns. They were fairly sedate affairs without a great deal of drama or any real fire. The self-appointed members of each Party would stand up and declare they were ‘The Leader’ we all needed. Then came the struggle between each of these self-appointed ‘Leaders’ to attract votes. The elections would proceed with all the gravity and decorum of a kindergarten playground with noisy games and some name calling and for us the occasional plugging of ears and eye rolls. Once in office, the inevitable declaration of a ‘Mandate from the people’ would follow, and nothing of real substance to our wellbeing would be enacted.

Then came the run-up to the 2016 election. Ladies and Gentlemen, we present for the first time in a long time the appearance of not one, but two actual leaders. Folks I am not kidding, two actual leaders. These were candidates who attracted the support of people, often across Party lines. Candidates who called forth citizens that had been absent in past elections. Leadership with declared intentions and visions that did not spring from the existing parties; but from the sense of the pain of the general population. They were Leaders because each one had a message and a style that touched us in a way that caused us to respond.

Please understand that in the end being a real political leader doesn’t mean being right or the best. It means these candidates knew how to inspire and rally support from a population. Human history is filled with Leaders who inspired and the results of their Leadership are scattered all over the moral landscape. Most of them tapped into a pool of people disillusioned with the conditions of the time. People who felt oppressed or betrayed or forgotten. People like so many of us today.

I don’t know about y’all, but I found it very entertaining watching the mainstream politicians in both Parties struggling to come to terms with the support that rallied behind those two. Strangely, as time went on it became apparent that instead of embracing the sudden rise of Leadership that could energize popular support the parties sought ways to undermine these two. Even the press worked against Sanders by actually blacking him out.
It is clear that we have a severe Leadership problem in America today. Our population is feeling a deep lack of faith in our politicians based on a gut level realization that we are losing our affluence. My heart tells me my children face a bleaker future than I did. Education is moving beyond our grasp, jobs with decent pay are harder to find, the hope of a secure retirement is fading, and poverty engulfs more of our citizens each year. In the face of what my gut tells me the feel good drivel offered up by the political ‘leadership’ smells like something from my childhood on the dairy farm.

My point? Inspiring Leadership arises when people experience widespread disillusionment and anger. These new Leaders will be people with a voice and vision that differs from the staid establishment. This establishment will likely oppose the new Leaders so as to protect their moneyed patrons. This is both an opportunity for us, the citizens, and severe risk.

At the risk of sounding like a rabble rouser, embracing change requires ‘We The People’ choose new Leadership if we wish our Government to evolve to better protect our livelihood and well being. Expect the old hands to put on the cloak of the new Leaders as they appear, aping the tone and content but changing nothing. The Corporate Press will strive to herd us toward our old patrons of wealth. Resist them both, look to the new, strive for better.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired Engineer originally from a small family owned a dairy farm in Jefferson County, MS. He earned a B.S in Petroleum Engineering from MS State University, accumulating 20 years nuclear experience at Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station and Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Station. Along the way, he worked as a roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a Quartermaster Officer in the US Army, Supervised brick kilns first in MS then in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Letter to Editor: What Party by Jimmie Galbreath

Political parties. I am sure that we have all gotten tired of the two we have from time to time. Watching elections in Iceland, England and France did create a feeling of ‘choice’ envy for me as these countries have multiple political parties to choose from. It made our two party system seem dull and simplistic.

Looking back to the birth of our Constitution it was mildly surprising for me to see that political parties were not mentioned at all. The Founding Fathers were aware of the existence of such organizations from the Mother Country and there seems to have been some debate about them. My two favorite quotes from their writings are;

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution. ~ John Adams

The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. ~ George Washington, 

These are just two observations from the early leadership of our country. Many of them were seemingly worried about the rapid rise of the political parties of the day. Sitting back and trying to look from afar I think I can see why. Our two party system has settled into two unyielding camps who seem to only care about the “Party” first,  and America only when it is convenient and when elections loom. Each politician wrapped in a flag, legislating for dollars and pandering for votes. This is a far cry from a serious, sober debate about the real issues of our time and how they affect the common citizen.

It doesn’t help that what passes for news today, both in video and print, is often little more than slander. Labels such as Fascist, Libtard, Communist and many others are thrown like mud in passionate declarations, memes, and accusations. I have been driven into near seclusion and left starved for a calm discussion of anything serious because an insulting label comes flying out almost immediately. Once that happens the emotion clouds, and any conversation and reason becomes impossible. Even talking about the weather can get a person labeled if the comment can be linked to climate change by the listener.

What can a citizen do? Well, if we want to be active and can’t stomach our current party choices, vote independent or third party. The current parties holding on to power rests with them getting votes and silencing those who don’t cooperate. Both sides use the same philosophies to achieve this end. Who hasn’t heard, “voting third party is a waste of your vote,” or “he/she is not a Democrat or Republican and so they can’t get anything done.” Another goldie oldie is, “there can only be two parties.” Now, this last one IS true because our Founders for good or ill set us up this way. That doesn’t mean it has to be THESE two parties. Let’s circle back to an inconvenient truth for the current Parties. They cannot maintain power if they can’t get our votes.

The only reason independents don’t wield more power is that there aren’t enough of them. The citizens that can’t stomach the current power duo outnumber the supporters of each of the main parties. Going to the polls and ‘wasting’ your vote is the only avenue open if you want to be noticed. Be defiant, be a rebel, raise a stink, vote for someone else. Not at the presidential level perhaps but absolutely at the state and local levels. Teach yourself to recognize the mindless label when it slithers out from the thrown rock, and understand that the one who threw it isn’t driven by a desire to support their fellow Americans. The rock thrower just wants you, and everyone like you ,to go away; they will pass by the other side.

Jimmie Galbreath is a retired engineer originally from a small family owned dairy farm in Jefferson County, Mississippi. He earned a B.S in petroleum Engineering from Mississippi State University, with twenty years nuclear technology experience. Along the way he worked a s roustabout on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, served 3 years active service as a quartermaster officer in the US Army, supervised brick kilns, first in MS and then in Atlanta GA and whatever else it took to skin the cat. He now lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

Letter to the Editor: Special Thanks to Shore Health Volunteers

As Chairman of the Board of Directors for University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, I am writing to express our gratitude for the men and women who volunteer in our three hospital auxiliaries — Chester River Hospital Center Auxiliary, Dorchester General Hospital Auxiliary and Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital at Easton. Members of these three volunteer organizations donate their valuable time to support health care services within their local communities, assisting with daily operations at many of our facilities and raising funds for programs, services, equipment and patient care throughout the region.

In the past year, the auxiliaries have earned a combined $500,000 in proceeds through their special event sales, hospital gift shops and their auxiliary-managed thrift shops – the Nearly New Shop in Chestertown, the Robin Hood Shop in Cambridge and The Bazaar at 121 Federal Street in Easton. The auxiliaries rely heavily on their gift and thrift shop sales to be able to provide the funding for each of the hospitals and offsite locations to which they contribute.

In addition to the funds they provide, volunteers assist with services such as wheelchair and patient escorts, blood pressure screenings, front desk and surgical service reception and many other areas. In total, volunteers donated 60,000 hours between the auxiliaries across the region, saving the organization valuable dollars that can then be used to further patient care efforts. Our team members, medical staff and patients value and appreciate the work of all auxiliary volunteers.

We encourage community members who have available time and would like to become more engaged with their community to reach out and learn more about volunteer opportunities with our three auxiliaries. Becoming a volunteer in a healthcare setting enables you to meet people from all walks of life while making a real difference in our communities

University of Maryland Shore Regional Health thanks the auxiliaries for their commitment to accessible, innovative health care, close to home. These are three fantastic organizations!

Thank you.

John Dillon, Chairman
Board of Directors
University of Maryland Shore Regional Health

Letter to Editor: Yes, We Need More Civility

We appreciate efforts to encourage civility, particularly during these stressful times. Let us also agree, though, that while civility requires listening respectfully, the ability to engage in constructive dialogue is essential to making progress. In that vein we might even recognize the likelihood that Dr. Harris’s town hall audience was more interested in policy than expressing animosity toward Trump supporters. We all have friends who do not share our views in the voting booth.

We very likely also disagree about health care reform. Dr. Harris emphasized that Medicare isn’t single payer, and that we must look to the VA. His town hall audience groaned. Under ideal circumstances, we would be more likely to listen to one another attentively and agree that Medicare is a single payer base. There was no acknowledgement that Medicare works very much like the health care in so many other industrialized nations, though, delivering better outcomes to all of their citizens at far less cost while incorporating supplemental coverage.

Under ideal circumstances, listening is a reciprocal activity and facts would prevail. There may be little opportunity for dialogue at a town hall, but our reactions were communicated. Dr. Harris was cheered for supporting efforts to reduce pollution in our Chesapeake Bay, and not only for agreeing with most of us, but for essentially acknowledging that a healthy Bay supports a healthy economy.

Concerning our nation’s debt, we listened respectfully for as long as we could, which admittedly wasn’t long. We might have hoped to hear an acknowledgement that President Obama had reduced our deficit. That was a long shot, although every Democratic president since

WWII has reduced our budget deficits. We would have also appreciated hearing that while our debt is huge now, Dr. Harris’s party left us with more debt as a share of our economy. Hearing that our government is spending less as a percentage of our economy than nearly every other industrialized nation would definitely have cleared a path toward civility.

It is a laudable endeavor. Doing what it takes may be challenging, though. Let’s hope we are up to the task. Listening to others and treating them in the way we would like to be treated is an essential part of that process, but without a rational, fact-based dialogue we may not reach our goals.

Carol Voyles

More information can be found on these sites.

https://data.oecd.org/gga/general-government-spending.htm
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_health_expenditure_per_capita
http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2015/oct/us-health-care-from-a-global-perspective
http://www.pgpf.org/chart-archive/0011_health-outcomes

Letter to Editor: Local Groups Seek Answers from Congressman Harris March 31

This is an open letter from a number of constituent groups, all of whom share significant concerns about the many vital issues we face and the wholly inadequate amount of time you have allotted to the Town Hall on March 31. One hour doesn’t provide a fair chance to discuss our concerns and hear your views. We are concerned about these major items, among others:

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act and replacement with a bill that will cost Maryland $2 Billion annually, substantially increase those who are uninsured and increase the cost of health care. These are just a few of the many groups that oppose the current bill:
American Medical Association – “the replacement bill, as written, would reverse the coverage gains achieved under the ACA, causing many Americans to lose the health care coverage they have come to depend upon.”

American Hospital Association & Federation of American Hospitals: “As lawmakers work to re-examine this law, patients and the caregivers who serve them across America are depending on Congress to make continued coverage a priority. We believe that any changes to the ACA must be guided by ensuring that we continue to provide health care coverage for the tens of millions of Americans who have benefitted from the law. We are pleased that so many in Congress also recognize the need to preserve patient coverage.”

AARP “…opposes this legislation, as introduced, that would weaken Medicare, leaving the door open to a voucher program that shifts costs and risks to seniors.”
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network “ACS CAN has long advocated that any changes to the health care law should provide equal or better coverage for cancer prevention, treatment and follow-up care than what is currently available. These bills have the potential to significantly alter the affordability, availability and quality of health insurance available to cancer patients and survivors. Changing the income-based subsidy to a flat tax credit, combined with reducing the standards for quality insurance could return cancer patients to a world where many are unable to afford meaningful insurance or are left to buy coverage that doesn’t meet their health needs.”

“In 2015, approximately 1.5 million people with a history of cancer between 18-64 years old relied on Medicaid for their insurance. Nearly one-third of childhood cancer patients are insured through Medicaid at the time of diagnosis. The proposed repeal of Medicaid expansion along with significant federal funding changes could leave the nation’s lowest income cancer patients without access to preventive, c”rative and follow-up health care.”

National Partnership Women and Families: “House Republicans’ Affordable Care Act repeal bill would wreak havoc on our health care system by making health coverage more expensive and inadequate for millions of women and families. The shroud of secrecy surrounding the Republicans’ process and their attempt to sneak through a bill that would have such a devastating impact, without allowing anyone to review it, is shameful.”

“Now that the bill has been revealed, it is clear why Republicans didn’t want people to see it. Their proposal radically overhauls and cuts Medicaid while simultaneously gutting the ACA by repealing financial assistance for low-income families and making it harder for people to afford coverage. It also defunds Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid program, denying 2.5 million people access to essential health care.”

“Moreover, the Republican bill interferes with women’s ability to make health care decisions by making abortion coverage inaccessible. It would harshen and expand already harmful abortion coverage restrictions, denying women the ability to access the care they need.”

Over 50 organizations oppose the proposed healthcare plan that will make Americans will pay more for less. The list includes nurses, doctors, hospitals, teachers, churches, and more. You can see a few here:

https://cooper.house.gov/groups-opposing-republican-health-plan

Why did you co-sponsor H.R. 610 to take funding away from public education through vouchers, repeal the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limit the authority of the Department of Education (ED) to award block grants to qualified states. Why did you, as a physician, co-sponsor a Bill that repeals nutrition standards for national school lunch and breakfast programs? Why repeal standards that require schools to increase the availability of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat free milk in school meals, reduce the levels of sodium, saturated fat, and trans fat and meet children’s nutritional needs? Whose side are you on?

https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/610

H.R.861 – a bill to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency. Your constituents are entitled to know where you stand on efforts to eliminate environmental protection of the Chesapeake Bay, its rivers, steams, and farmlands. Whose side are you on?

This is just a partial list of our concerns. If you have a genuine interest in listening to your constituents, we demand you allot at least 3 hours to the Town Hall to hear our concerns and explain your views.

We have sent copies of this letter to news organizations throughout the 1st District and expect your early and positive response.

Thank you.

Talbot Rising
Michael Pullen

Together We Will, Delmarva
Emily Jackson
Deborah Collins Krueger
Michele Copper

Together We Will, Harford County
DeLane Lewis

Easton Huddle
Naomi M. Hyman

Kent and Queen Anne’s County Indivisible
Erin Anderson
Kitty Maynard

Talbot County Democratic Women’s’ Club
Lesley Israel

The Eastern Shore PAC for Social And Economic Justice
Meredith Girard
Michele Drostin
Lauren Harton

Kent County Democratic Central Committee
Pamela White

Md. 1st Dist. Indivisible,
New Harford Dem. Club
Allison Galbraith

Md 1st Dist. Indivisible
Baltimore County
Kirk Fairfield

African American Democrats
of Maryland
James A. Sweeting, III, Esq.

Dorchester Indivisible
Mike Brown

Indivisible Worcester Maryland
Susan Buyer, Toby Perkins

Maryland 1st Congressional District Resistance
Joseph Riedel

Bipartisan Alliance for Democracy, Eastern Shore
Maureen Johnston

Queen Anne’s Co. Dem. Central Committee
Elaine Mcneil

Indivisible, Harford County
Irene Whalen

Wicomico County Progressive Caucus
Michael A. Feldman

UMBC Progressives

Cambridge Alert – Yard Make-over at No Cost by CBF’s Alan Girard

Residents of Cambridge, this spring you can win an unusual prize: a yard make-over at no cost. And in the process you can help clean up the waters around the city, and the Chesapeake Bay. Oh, and everybody gets a free ‘rain barrel.’

The whole idea is the brainchild of the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee. The group wants to encourage practical, low-cost activities that can improve water quality in the city.

The process is simple. Interested residents must first attend a workshop that’s happening at the Dorchester County Public Library in Cambridge, 5:30 – 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 22. You will receive information about what possible changes could be made in your yard that treat polluted runoff.

For instance, “rain gardens” are a type of beautiful garden that also soaks up rain running off your property. This is helpful because this runoff often contains pollution from the air or the landscape. The pollution usually ends up in local creeks. You won’t make any commitments at the workshops, just learn about possibilities for a make-over.

If you’re still interested, next you will receive a free visit after the workshop from a professional landscaper who will look at your yard, talk to you, and come up with ideas such as rain gardens, native plants, pavement removal and other possible modifications best suited for your yard.

You’ll pay nothing for the make-over if you are selected. Only five properties will be chosen in the first year of the two-year program. In the second year, financial support drops from 100 percent to 90 percent as a way to encourage early participation.

Both homeowners and renters are eligible to enroll. Those of limited means are particularly encouraged to step forward as the project is intended, in part, to respond to needs in underserved communities. A community survey accessible online here will further help reveal how much people know about water quality and ways to improve it. All survey respondents are eligible to enter to win a $40 Jimmie & Sooks Raw Bar and Grill gift card.

Pre-registration is required to attend the workshop on March 22nd. Each workshop participant will receive a free rain barrel and instructions on how to install it. For more information and to register, contact Hilary Gibson at 410-543-1999 or hgibson@cbf.org.

Fertilizers, soil, oil, grease and other contaminants run off private property when it rains. Until now, cities such as Cambridge have been left with the responsibility to deal with this problem. It’s difficult and expensive, especially to manage runoff from private property.

The work in Cambridge seeks to treat runoff before it becomes the city’s responsibility. Recognizing the burden of treating runoff once it reaches the city’s drainage system, the Cambridge Clean Water Advisory Committee of private and public partners stepped in to try to demonstrate how runoff volumes and contaminants can be reduced before that point. Funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation was awarded to pilot a program that offers homeowners and renters incentives to install native plantings, swales and other practices that naturally filter runoff on private property – minimizing runoff volumes and pollutants for the city to handle later.

Alan Girard is the director of the Maryland Eastern Shore Office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation