Monday, July 17, 2006

"Culture of Life"? Aren't you forgetting THIS?

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune

Well, we have been hearing how Bush is going to use his first veto to strike down bills allowing for the use of federal funds for stem cell research. Never mind the fact that a large number of Americans are in favor of embryonic stem cell research as I really don't want to talk about the merits of federal funding for stem cell research or get into a discussion of the "slippery slope" argument regarding cloning.


No, what I want to discuss is the "culture of life" meme that really only means "make a big stink about things related to before someone is born or when they are about to die, but you're on your own while on this earth". We hear "culture of life" as it relates to abortion, to euthanasia, to stem cell research and what/whoever else the lunatics on the right want to distract and divide the country over.

And since we are going to be hearing these three words ad nauseum again, I think it merits pointing out what is going on every day, right here in our own country, under our own eyes that should make anyone that utters those three words hide their head in shame.


Why not start with this little gem of an idea: Bush Administration Plans Medicare Changes. You know when there are "changes planned" for any program, that generally means gutting the program. And here is a perfect way, BushCo-style, to "solve" the Medicare issues:


The Bush administration says it plans sweeping changes in Medicare payments to hospitals that could cut payments by 20 percent to 30 percent for many complex treatments and new technologies.


The changes, the biggest since the current payment system was adopted in 1983, are meant to improve the accuracy of payment rates. But doctors, hospitals and patient groups say the effects could be devastating.


---snip---


Medicare pays more than $125 billion a year to nearly 5,000 hospitals. The new plan is not expected to save money, but will shift around billions of dollars, creating clear winners and losers. The effects will ripple through the health care system because many private insurers and state Medicaid programs follow Medicare's example.


Dr. Alan D. Guerci, president of St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, N.Y., said the new formula would cut Medicare payments to his hospital by $21 million, or 12 percent. "It will significantly reduce payments for cardiac care and will force many hospitals to reduce the number of cardiac procedures they perform,"Dr. Guerci said.


A coalition of patient organizations, including the Parkinson's Action Network and the Society for Women's Health Research, told the government in a letter that the new system "could have a devastating impact on payment for critical treatments for seriously ill patients, with reimbursement for some essential procedures cut as much as 30 percent."


Well, that is just swell. The plan won't save money overall, but will shift money around to such a degree that doctors, hospitals AND patient groups are all concerned about the quality of care that will be given. Seems like that really does a lot to foster that whole "culture of life" thing, doesn't it?


So that is another smack in the face to the healthcare industry and to the hopes of many Americans who need certain medical procedures done, not to mention the doctors and hospitals, who would have to cut back on services.


OK, so that is healthcare - what about other areas where the "culture of life" is being subverted lately? What about affordable low income and public housing? Yup, massive cuts there as well. All those lower income people don't need a place for them and their family to live, right? After all, Barbara Bush and Tom DeLay thought the Katrina refugees were so much better off and having such a blast living on cots in Houston that this shouldn't matter either:

Already struggling to meet community needs for affordable housing, public-housing agencies now must deal with an unexpected 14.5 percent cutback in federal funding.


The shortfall amounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars for some agencies and likely will result in reduced services to needy tenants as the agencies leave jobs unfilled and consider layoffs.


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently announced a $600 million shortfall in the money it needs to fund public housing nationwide. As a result, it informed housing authorities they will receive 85.5 percent of the HUD money they had expected.


Officials at many of Central Florida's nearly two dozen public-housing agencies, which already faced lean budgets, say they may have to take drastic measures.


The article goes on to state that the cuts were largely do to HUD's being off by $300 million on their estimates to meet utility costs. The overall shortfall is over $600 million. Some of the services that need to be cut are security at housing for elderly people as well as repair services (which not only delay things for tenants but is also leads to longer vacancy times due to lack of staff to make appropriate repairs, leading to longer times on waiting lists). This also would cut funds for youth programs in public housing projects (per the article), which at least cuts down on teens being out on the streets or being prone to violence and gang activity. But who needs affordable housing and these services, right?


What about education? Certainly, a good solid education leads to better opportunities later in life, while a poor education leads to less opportunities for better jobs, the ability to go to college and to make a decent living (which still may not even be doable with a good education anymore). But we find that the Administration's ignoring of middle school and high school students has led to lower reading skills and levels. Now, there has been significant funding since 2002 for the lower grade levels, but we now have a problem with the middle school levels and the even high school graduates.

The Alliance for Excellent Education, a Washington-based education policy research and advocacy group, estimates that as many as 6 million middle and high school students can't read at acceptable levels. It's an issue for students well above the bottom of the class. A report released in March that looked at the reading skills of college-bound students who took the ACT college entrance exam found that only 51 percent were prepared for college-level reading.


---snip---


In the past two years, at least a half-dozen major education associations have released reports on adolescent literacy, including the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the National Association of State Boards of Education. State and national test scores also paint a troubling picture of the reading skills of older students.


In Maryland, 33 percent of incoming high school freshmen will need extra help in reading, according to results from the 2006 Maryland School Assessments released last month. In Virginia, 24 percent of last year's freshmen needed additional support. And according to 2005 test results in D.C. public schools, 71 percent of middle and high school students needed special help with reading.


Now obviously, there are many different reasons for this, but we do remember what Dear Leader has said about his commitment to education. But what does it say for our future if a too large number of students are progressing through the school system without the proper tools to have a chance to succeed later in life? Doesn't sound too much like a commitment to a "culture of life" to me....


And here is another environmental one for you: Top panel urges EPA to reassess dioxin risks:

he cancer risk from the chemical dioxin -- present in some U.S. soil, food supplies and most Americans' bodies -- needs to be reassessed by the Environmental Protection Agency before it sets a new standard for cleanup, a U.S. scientific panel reported Tuesday.


Experts assembled by the National Academies' National Research Council confirmed many of the findings of a 2003 EPA report on dioxin, which found dioxin causes cancer and reproductive and immune-system disorders in humans.

---snip---


Even though the EPA draft report was made public three years ago, its findings were not reflected in policy.


---snip---


Dioxin and dioxin-like compounds stay in the environment, allowing them to build up in the food chain. Most Americans ingest dioxin when they eat fatty foods including beef, pork, fish and dairy products, and others are exposed to the chemical on the job or by accident, the National Academies panel noted.


The Boston-based Center for Health, Environment and Justice hailed the National Academies report in a statement and accused industries that use chlorine of stalling enforcement of higher cleanup standards.


I could go on and on. There are so many examples every single week that show the Republican-controlled Federal Government's policies (and the four examples above all can be addressed with proper Federal funding and implementation) and the disdain for the true "culture of life" that exists from the time that one is born throughout childhood, adolescence, working age all the way through the time that one is elderly. The cuts in program after program, the lack of attention and caring to the "culture of life" while one is actually alive and functioning on this earth speak volumes towards the callous and reckless endangerment of human life.


The "culture of life" meme must go. Or it must be thrown back in anyone's face who dares to utter those three empty words.

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