Letter to the Editor for February 2, 2017

Letter to the Editor for February 2, 2017

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‘Affordable’ healthcare unobtainable in this country

Discussions taking place in Washington and around the nation concern impending prospects for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the future of health care in general in America. What I believe Americans need to decide is whether they simply want to score political points or attain a truly affordable, competent and dependable health care system for all our citizens.

Due to the power, wealth and influence of unrelenting monied interests I have, for decades, encountered what I consider clear evidence that “affordable” health care for average Americans is, in a practical sense, unobtainable in this country.  We have the most expensive health care system in the world and no discernible effort being made to reign in that disparity.

Nor am I convinced (from my own experiences over many years as both a staffer and a patient) that the quality of health care across a broad range of the industry is more than marginal at best and often nothing shy of frightening.

Several years ago I required surgery on my spine and was three days in a hospital in a neighboring county.  Two machines were attached to me, one monitoring my oxygen level, the other my blood pressure. Neither device worked properly so, false readings aside, at night the nurses simply turned them off so they wouldn’t alarm. I discussed that matter (and other line items I believed were excessive or questionable) upon discharge, with no success. Hospitals are intransigent when they know you’re powerless.

A little over two years ago, at the request of my family doctor, I admitted myself to our local hospital for heart issues. The doctor on duty administered a high dose of a rather potent drug and over the next three days in ICU (with nurses and staff looking on and following blindly), I stopped eating, my liver and kidneys began to shut down, at which point (in a relatively unresponsive condition) I was discharged to the care of my wife.

The next morning I didn’t recognize my wife of 30 years. She convinced me I had to return to the hospital where the ER doctor then on duty, instantly recognizing the problem, hustled me off to Mission Hospital in Asheville thus, indisputably, saving my life.

Here’s the message that must be conveyed to our doctors, hospitals, and to our state and federal representatives: The quality of health care for average American citizens cannot continue to be the catch as catch can, hit-or-miss, luck of the draw crap shoot that it presently is.

Perhaps the argument can be made that we and our families deserve a health care system as efficient, as proficient, and as accessible as that which our congressmen and senators in Washington DC enjoy, the men and women whose paychecks, perks and lucrative retirements we stand behind and endorse with our sweat, our blood, and sometimes our lives.

 

David L. Snell  — Franklin, N.C.

Jobs, energy and the environment

Have your cake and eat it too?  America is addicted to energy.  We use more energy per capita than perhaps any other country. One average American uses as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis or 370 Ethiopians. With only five percent of the world’s population, we use 25 percent of the world’s oil and coal. Oil, coal, and natural gas are limited non-renewable sources of energy and the downside is that they produce greenhouse gases that are changing our world, but not for the better.  Global climate change brings with it more severe weather events including hurricanes, tornados, flooding, blizzards and droughts.  Add to that a rising sea level that will flood coastal area and take away land (i.e. property) and you may have bit off more than you can chew.

We are creating our own homegrown terrorism in the form of man-made climate disaster.  Worldwide climate change will create additional chaos in the form of climate forced migration.  The estimate is that there will be 200 million refugees seeking a new home due to conditions spawned by a changing climate in the near future.  Where will they go and  who will take them in?

Since developed countries, which include the United States, have contributed the majority of the greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, one might ask how we might need to respond to these crises. Just as wars have the unintended consequence of creating refugees fleeing violence, climate change is a looming crisis on our horizon which will cause populations to shift. Climate change is a global issue and does not stop at our border. We will not be able to turn a blind eye to the problems created by climate change throughout the world.  The damage may have already been done but at this point we can make the situation better or worse.

We can continue to go down the same road to sure destruction, and at an increasingly exponential rate of speed, or make a u-turn and adopt energy policies and technology that will provide for a clean renewable energy future.  It will however take leaders with an imagination, understanding, and the will to face today’s challenges and  to find that other road. The road to sustainability will not only provide the energy that we need (and we will have to adjust our addiction levels), but the jobs that we need for the future. Jobs in the renewable energy field include engineers, farmers growing bio-fuels, installers, manufacturing jobs, distribution, construction workers, service and maintenance jobs and even lawyers.   Switching to a renewable energy future will produce more jobs than coal, oil or natural gas ever will without the negatives of pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

How many jobs? In the solar energy field, job creation is outpacing growth in the overall economy by 5 to 1.   Renewable energy will protect the beauty of our land, air and water from the ravages of drilling, exploration, removal, and burning of fossil fuels. When we buy a gallon of gas at the pump, we don’t pay for the health and environment cost of using that energy.  That comes later, but it is still part of the cost of using fossil fuels.  Most of the remaining fossil fuels need to stay put safely where they are: in the ground.  We can bury our heads in the sand but the reality of climate change due to human influence will not go away.  The only debate remaining about human induced climate change is how bad it will be and likely all predictors will underestimate the seriousness of the consequences.

What kind of world do we want to leave to our children and their children’s children?  It is time to act, not talk as our president has said.  Climate change needs to be treated as a serious threat to our national security and the time to act is now.  Contact your representatives today and express your concerns. Climate change will affect all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. We can have our cake and eat it too, but it will take action by everyone: consumers, politicians and energy producers.  We can have a beautiful clean future, but it will not come in the form of fossil fuels.

 

Paul Chew — Otto, N.C.

Culture of hate has real consequences

Hate is a powerful force. It creates devastation. Hate is a blinding force. It clouds judgment. Hate is an all-consuming force. It suffocates love. Hate is a destructive force. It tears people asunder. Hate is a unifying force. It, unfortunately, brings people together. But, ultimately, hate is a self-defeating force. It stultifies the mind, corrupts the emotions, and thwarts the ambitions of those who have it in their hearts. As the Buddha observed long ago, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

As it currently stands, a large segment of our country is “holding on to anger.” And their anger or hate has gotten the best of them: hate of Mexican immigrants, hate of women, hate of Muslims, hate of gay people, hate of poor people, hate of declining white privilege, hate of Obama, hate of Obamacare, hate of politicians, hate of government, hate of diversity, hate of equality, hate of reality.

All this hate is about to have real consequences. The hot coal, as it were, is about to burn the hands of those grasping it.

Donald Trump, despite his own moral bankruptcy, is about to give the country a moral lesson in the futility of hate. He has already made a fool of the most foolish of his supporters; the ones duped by the chant “lock her up,” when he reneged on that quixotic promise. But this is just the first instance of a pattern that will repeat itself: Trump using the hate of his voters against their own interests. This is not conjecture. Simply examine Trump’s cabinet and post selections. They are filled with billionaires who have spent their lives ripping off the working class.

After decrying the evils of Goldman Sachs, and (rightfully) impugning Hillary for taking speaking fees from them, Trump has hired six Goldman Sachs’ alum to his cabinet, including Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Thus, hate has given Trump supporters a Treasury Secretary who made hundreds of millions of dollars by ruthlessly foreclosing on homes that were under water from the financial crises created by members of the large financial institutions who will now, or continue to, head our Treasury.

Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services, Tom Price, made money through insider trading – buying stocks and passing legislation beneficial to the value of those stocks – as a congressman. Thus, Trump supporter’s hate has further filled the swamp he promised to drain.

Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State selection, as the CEO of Exxon Mobile brokered and continued deals made with autocratic dictators in countries all over the world, including Chad, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea. The human rights abuses and environmental degradation enabled by these deals will bring tears to eyes of anybody with a moral center. Indeed, hate has consequences.

Trump’s list of selections does not only include the capable and morally unscrupulous, such as Mnuchin, Price, and Tillerson. There are the incapable and morally unscrupulous as well.

There’s Ben Carson (HUD), a man without policy or governmental experience, and zero experience in public housing. Trump once described Carson’s temperament as “pathological” after a series of unsubstantiated childhood stories Carson told on the campaign trail -stories that perpetuated the racist stereotype of the angry and violent black male youth.

There’s Betsy Devos (Education), a fundamentalist and proponent of private schools who has no degree or experience in public education. She has, in fact, spent millions of dollars lobbying for legislation harmful to public schools. What’s more, for over ten years she sat on the board of an organization that has given millions of dollars to hate groups, as documented by Southern Poverty Law Center.

There’s Rick Perry (Energy), a man who Trump has repeatedly denigrated in the past. In a stupendous example of the pot calling the kettle black, Trump questioned the intellectual fitness of Perry to hold public office a few months ago. Now Trump has selected Perry to oversee the Department of Energy, a department that Perry wanted to eliminate completely, and a department that Perry did not even know was responsible for the nuclear arsenal!

To make things worse, this culture of hate has been bolstered by pride. Trump supporters have doubled-down and dug-in. They have not been able to let go of their hate, even in the face of the overwhelming evidence they were lied to and conned by Trump. But, then again, the coal in their hands is only starting to get hot. Once Trump’s policies start negatively affecting their lives, my hope is that they will at last let the coal go.

 

Marshall Solomon — Franklin, N.C.

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