Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Keywords or Terms: Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act; OBAMACARE; US Court of Appeals, Washington DC; Richmond Virginia; Contradictory Rulings; Litigations and Suits; Americans For Prosperity; Heritage Foundation.

Probably no law in the history of US health policy has undergone more scrutiny than OBAMACARE. Part of the reasons for this has to do with politics; and, maybe on the substance or foundation of the reform: allowing federal funds to be used as subsidy for the millions of Americans without health care insurance.

What OBAMACARE afforded, first in US History, are opportunities for direct subsidy for the purchase of health insurance policy from state exchanges. The number of US citizens without health insurance had risen in the past few decades, so too had the number of emergency room visitation – something advocates of health care reform reminded congress during the long debate over the passing of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Much of the current outrage from Republicans over OBAMACARE has centered on the use of federal dollars for financing health subsidy for the more than forty million Americans without healthcare. The passing of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act has been considered an affront to the Republican hegemony in Congress; and more than ever, Republican lawmakers have introduced bills to overturn, derail funding and implementation, or scrap the law in totality since its inception in 2010.

Recent effort at killing or undermining the law may be found in ongoing legal battle before the courts. In what would probably be considered another conflicting and misunderstood rulings, are two determinations yesterday before federal appeals court, where it seems the ruling of the courts are conflictual. The US Court of Appeals, Washington DC, struck down IRS rule providing tax subsidies to low income families purchasing healthcare insurance on federal exchanges, maintaining that as the law stands, subsidies are only due purchasers of health insurance policies on state exchanges. Contrarily, a panel of three judges in Richmond, Virginia, ruled that the spirit of the law encompasses subsidies for the same group, whether purchasing health insurance policies on state or federal exchanges.

While accepting the argument that the language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seems ambiguous, it is the opinion of the Virginia Court that the Internal Revenue Service has discretion of writing rules for OBAMACARE, with respect to award of subsidy write-offs. Now, if the ruling of the Washington DC Court stands, despite petition from OBAMA White House, the decision from the Washington DC Court of Appeal has the potential of crippling the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

The Federal Exchange subsidy, just as the States Exchange subsidies, is crucial to the survivability of the law. The law articulates that there has to be a critical mass of participation, which could be ensured or guaranteed with more Americans carrying a health insurance policy. The thorny part of these contradictory decisions is simply this: there are dire consequences for lower participation of individual in the federal and state exchanges; and, since only fourteen states have exchanges, the remaining 36 states’ residents depend strictly on the use of the Federal Exchange. If participants obtaining their policy on the Federal Exchange cannot receive tax credits, ultimately, there are going to not only be a gap in number of participants, but also, a dithering health insurance market, due to this aspect of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

While still on these rulings and their implication for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it is important to take into consideration that the law was passed without a Republican vote of support in March, 2010. Further, the Supreme Court ruled in a June 2012 decision that the law is constitutional; yet acrimonious disastisfaction still persists among the far right. For example, Republicans have introduced over sixty bills in the US House of Representatives to kill the law. Part of the opposition to the passing of the law, emanating from conservative think tanks and work groups in Washington DC, including far right groups as the Americans for Prosperity and the Heritage Foundation, has been summed up as vindictive by many independent keen observers and elevators.

As of recent, the Conservative group Americans For Prosperity was running media advertisement in various US markets, spreading the message that the law is unworkable; that the technological failures that marred the roll-out of the law, is emblematic of the convolution of the provisions in the law; that current litigation challenges in the court are indication of why the law is better written off; and or, symbolic of the type of weaknesses in the law. In the past, just about the time of the debate over passing the health care law, the conservative group, Heritage Foundation, distributed a self-interest research finding listing the following as the case against OBAMACARE, among others: 1) advocating individual mandate; 2) it as a form of new taxes; 3) gutting or overloading the federal budgets; 4) putting a heavy burden on the employer through the employer mandate; 5) it is a form of healthcare subsidy or transfer payment that the nation can’t afford; 6) the federal health exchanges are additional federal bureaucracy; 7) the insurance benefits mandate is an unusual burden;  8) the law has greater implication for the CLASS Act; and 9) the law has possible provision for funding of abortion. There are likelihood that all these reservations and probably anomalies from conservative groups as the Heritage Foundation and American For Prosperity will surface in future litigation over the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act. There are also the solid expectations that the White House and Democrats in Congress will fight tooth and nail to protect and preserve the law as passed.

There are current perceptions that the contradictory rulings from the two courts apply only to the issue of subsidies for income-qualified or low-income groups that depend on federal subsidies to be able to purchase health insurance. In other words, the fight for abrogation of the law has more to do with denying equality of opportunity for carrying health care insurance in America.  To put it crudely as one can, the fight is against people with low or middle incomes — up to $94,200 for a family of four, who benefit from tax credits to help pay for an health insurance policy through OBAMACARE. The Republicans want the free market system to adjudicate who carries health care insurance and who doesn't. They are hardly interested in the merits of the law and would continue to horn the flaws in the law. 
The former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, alluded to the intricate nature of OBAMACARE in front of 200 national leaders in mental health field, during the 29th Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy, holding at Carter Center in Atlanta in November 2013. Discussing how mental health could improve with the implementation of OBAMACARE, how the law offers subsidies and opens up new avenue for expanding mental health care, the former Secretary insists that the Law has brought a new lease of life for health delivery to many who may be suffering from mental issues. The litigation battle cry against the law from the extreme right must now be seen as an affront, not only to low income groups in the country but also, to mental health counselors, physician and health providers, who have welcomed the law as another avenue for helping the mentally ill. Now, if you have been reading the newspapers or watching the news on the television or internet lately, you would have concluded that the number of gun related shootings have come from people with mental incapacity or illness, who truly need mental health care. The current legal ambushes or litigation coming upstream from those who could hardly careless about the health of anyone, is an eye-opener of what America has become. Imagine, if the law is gutted; and the third stool on which the law stands is derailed? Your guess is as good as mine regarding the future of healthcare, especially, mental health.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Open letter to Climate Change Skeptics in Congress: Resolving a long gridlock?

Keywords of Terms: US Congress; Attitudinal change; Bi-Partisanship; Stalled Climate Change Bill; Advocacy Groups; Congressional Hearings and Testimonies; New Beginnings

How can Congress know whether or not we have issues with climate change? How can congress weigh scientific against non-scientific information on climate change when several bills are sitting on congressional docket without attention? How were water quality issues impacting fish kills in many watershed traced to phosphate discharges from several point and non-point sources, if setback regulations on water waste systems were not in place; regulations, traceable to the act of congress? How can congress identify the specific risk factors of climate change if it refuses to open communication to body of proofs? How can Americans have the information on the risk factors specific to climate change; and probably quality of life that will reduce medical costs? How can advocacy groups tender their justification for policy enactment or regulations to combat potential human activities impacting climate change? How can congress know whether to fund some parts of the climate change bill or all? How can we resolve this long gridlock? For most of us, it’s simply not practical to assume that opposing views on the subject of climate change are incredulous; thus, congress will not look more carefully to the opposing views coming from several interest groups.

In 1969, the United States manned mission moon landing, opened up the benefits of today’s information age or society. Over several decades, we invested human and non-human capital in space travels, advanced science to a degree never before imagined, solidified lunar advances to the envy of the rest of the world. Our investments in pioneer and ranger space missions not only afforded us to read and understand our solar environment, they made our understanding of air (winds), land and water movements around the globe, less of a guess work. For starters, there are some of us who believe there are enough data in the nation’s kitty from space experiments, either from Lyman-alpha telescope, rubidium-vapor magnetometer or particle detectors, to junk or support a case for climate change, period. United States Congress nonpartisan 1965 NASA budget appropriation not only landed a manned Apollo rocket on the moon, it laid the foundation for Ranger 8 and 9 successes. All through these successes, it took a non-partisan congress to act and attain the dream of a President and the ordinary American.

The debate over whether man landed on the moon or not, emanating from conspirators’ theorists, were put to rest through empirical evidence garnered from dialogues and conversations. The resolution pictures of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter were not only mind blowing, they essentially made a believer even of astute hoax theorist; and if that was not enough, when the conspirators’ theorists saw the astronaut’s walking paths in the lunar dust in the 2009 pictures, many probably blamed themselves of ignorance. And, as the saying goes, Time of ignorance God overlooks! In the same light, if US Congress opens up debate over climate change, empirical and non-empirical evidence will likely open up our minds or make us junk the advances. Shutting the door against dialogues and debates only muddle up the whole process and issues.

Holding series of congressional hearings and testimonies helped the nation continue conversations and dialogue over whether we take the route of manned space or robot-based space program. Congressional hearings and testimonies have a way of exposing the truth about proposals, advances or heated debates. The US Space program has been successful so far, because there is a constant congressional updates over the developments on the programs and funding for the program has remained mostly nonpartisan. We have built the bridge to far away galaxies through experimental explorations and empirical evidence, including heated debates among our scientists. Despite the fact that we realize how challenging some of our endeavors or explorations are for the limits of human body, despite the fact that some of the empirical evidence called to question our initial misconceptions or position, we have remained open to robbing our minds against each other, to deliver truth. That is why the hold up on many of the bills on climate change in congress, hardly serves the interest of the people
With congressional acquiescence, the climate change bills that are lagging in congress may be tabled. Yes, the Senate defeat of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, after passing the House on a vote of 219 to 212 in the 111th US Congress (H.R. 2454) was a blow to some interest groups on emissions standards; Yes, there are biologists and ecologists against legislation set to destroy wildlife habitat by setting aside US environmental laws protecting Yosemite National Park and National Forests;  Yes, the American meteorological society believes that global temperature will rise in the next one hundred years by about 7 degrees Fahrenheit’s, and this shift in temperature may trigger widespread disasters for rising sea levels, violent and volatile weather patterns, water shortage and desertification, among others; and, Yes, Australia, a country with probably similar dynamics with carbon-based burning to the US has been able to pass a bill through their lower and upper house of parliament that curtails carbon emissions. Getting into tit-for-tat dynamics with President Obama’s choice to use executive power to reverse the new coal-fired powered plants guideline of US EPA that was rolled back by the Republican led US House Energy and Commerce Committee vote of 29-19, is essentially, not the way out of this quagmires.

We must remember that most of our accomplishments and successes in the space program have been through dialogues and conversations. Holding fastidious to one’s position is often not a characteristic of a team player. Offering opportunities to testify by those who know more about the issue of climate change, in a transparent congressional hearing and testimony, is probably the best standard, to avert mistrust and misconceptions of many interest groups on the debate over climate change. There has to been room for us to look at issues in a nonpartisan way, whether those issues are in agreement with our beliefs or not; however, with the Republican/Tea party controlled House of Representatives, it has been difficult for us to confront our fears, lately. There is room for us to give each other the benefit of doubt on the debate over climate change; we owe ourselves the opportunity to talk over our doubts with those holding opposing views to our position. The choice now is not to continue in the soloist flight of my way or the highway.

Attitudes have to change; lawmaking and debates in congress need to take a new tune and turn; things in congress have to change. The nation needs to begin the debate somehow, congressional lawmakers who are the proxy for the will of the people, need to take action on the floods of climate change bill on congressional docket. Funding is not the only issue on several congressional dockets on climate change. So, with this appeal and pleading for bipartisanship in United States Congress, there has to be a new movement to do the work of the people, not only with climate change! We need a new start, beginning once again, with the climate change bills.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Can America fix its cyclical Unemployment Problem: Revisiting an old debate?

Keywords and Terms: Unemployment Compensation; Cyclical; Relational; Disillusionment; Stigma Disenfranchisement, Congress, Free-Market Enterprise, Corporate America; Re-engineering; Mental Health Raved Homes; Coding and Algorithm; Machine Power; Globalization; Off-shoring; Change

I am confused; not so much about what is broken in American Politics; but, about what is fixable but which congress has paid little attention. The phenomenal perennial unemployment problem that characterize the free market economy continues to ravage many American homes. The recurrent nature of unemployment in the free market economy has made some economists diagnose this problem as endemic of capitalism; and somewhat, relational. To the untrained mind, the question is: what does cyclical or relational mean? In a lay man’s mind, cyclical means occurs every now and then or ever so often; some say every ten years, others claim five years. Relational, in the construct of an economist: unemployment and inflation are inverse variables. Simply put: when inflation is down, unemployment is often up. Depending on what data is used, unemployment continues to be a handicap to a completely free market economy; and the conventional approach of addressing the unemployment problem has woefully failed with globalization and hyperventilating revolutionary advances in Information Technology.

 The social implication of unemployment has been damaging: broken marriages and families, increasing mental health issues, domestic violence, drug use and college dropout, disenfranchisement and disillusionment and much more! Call them what you may, the devastating impact on American life, especially among the middle income group, has been horrendous. The stigma of waiting on unemployment line, food bank rotational roasters and public health services has promoted many stereotypes; a few of which has been used by politicians to ride into office. How about the slogan: Washington is broken and is going to fix it? Did anyone in congress do anything significant lately in solving America's unemployment problem except to fight over whether to extend unemployment compensation to the long-term unemployed?  Did any of our lawmakers contemplate a fresher look at the problem of unemployment rather than fight over the impact of unemployment compensation on the nation’s budget? Your answers to these questions are as good as mine. Interestingly or shamefully, the helplessness of the devastation of associated problem of unemployment on our neighborhoods has made a few of us in policy making, wonder: what in the world are we doing calling ourselves policymakers, when we cannot solve a problem that has, and continues to ravage American homes. Americans deserve answers to the cyclical problem of unemployment and men and women in United States Congress cannot continue to use the unemployment compensation issue as ping-pong to rising into office; or, humiliating another 40 million of our citizens, who for other reasons, may not have been victim of laziness. The downturn or stigma of not having enough education hardly suffice these days, where the labor force is rapidly being ravished by advances in information technology; and the odds of holding on to your job is partly determined by how quickly advances in information technology impacts your occupation.

Loss of self is professed by psychologists as the core component of schizophrenia. Many unemployed have identified with loss of self as a component of depression that they find themselves, after a loss of job or being unemployed for far too long. No one is adducing unemployment to schizophrenia or using the term, economic schizophrenia; however, unemployment schizophrenia is not far away from the question. Maybe that is why I am simply saying, I am confused. Confused in the context of being schizophrenic of unemployment problem; yet convinced that as a nation, we have the wherewithal to solve this problem, but has refused to do so for whatever reason. For many in the baby boomer generation, if America can send a man to the moon, there is hardly any problem that she cannot solve here on earth? When a neighbor of ours lost his home due to long term unemployment last year, to say the least, I was very worried and terrified. Worried and terrified, because I know many of us in the labor force are just a paycheck away from unemployment psychosis or schizophrenia. A paycheck away from unemployment psychosis is as bad as a paycheck away from mental health problems, seriously!

Taken together, unemployment and associated psychoses can influence the state of mind and welfare of families, communities, state and nation. To promote safety net in term of unemployment insurance checks is probably not the complete answer to the unemployment problem.  If it has been since FDR; that solution is outdated; and what variables existed during the thirties and forties that led to a prescription of this temporary solution as a panacea to unemployment, hardly exists anymore. The characteristic nature of industrialization that led to unemployment in the thirties and forties have taken a different shape or form because of advances in information technology and globalization. It is time that we as a nation take a deeper look at unemployment compensation; and seek to prescribe more evolutionary or attentive solution to the cyclical unemployment problem, to forestall the ravages of unemployment psychosis. Advances in information technology have revolutionized the way industries are ran and managed by corporate executives. It is time for change, not only in the convoluted acceptance of unemployment insurance as a temporary solution to unemployment problem; but rather, in terms of the realities of advances in information technology and how it has sped up production levels and allowed corporate America to make zillion of dollars, while millions of Americans remain on the soup line. It is time to consider other alternative solutions to unemployment insurance compensation as a way to smitten temporarily associated problems of unemployment.

The known stereotypes of blaming Americans for being lazy, looking too much for handouts or seeking easy access to services at the expense of taxpayers or the national deficit, hardly hold anymore. Here are some concrete eye opener: there are many more Americans between the ages of 24 and 62 who remain in long term unemployment, despite the fact that they own college degrees; many more Americans are obtaining social security disability benefits as a substitute for gainful employment, because they have remained unemployed for far too long, despite active search; there are more significant proportion of Americans who have lost their jobs because their kind of work has been shipped overseas by corporate America, under the pretext that labor cost is exorbitant if those goods are produced here; the rapid advances in information technology have been at a growth pace never before imagined or contemplated, that in some cases, many jobs have been killed and some professions obsolete because machine power has practically taken over; the range of factors that had facilitated  growth during the early era of industrialization, are much different from those that we are seeing in the information age.

Current research in the field of information technology is suggestive that it is feasible for many more professions, going obsolete because of coding and algorithm advances; and, the potential these technologies have in revolutionizing efficiency of production and manufacturing, must never be underestimated. Current political regulations and legislative constraints in some states have made it difficult for some recently laid-off unemployed to retrain in other professions, because of the added costs. Worse still, some state governments are jostling and getting into tax-right-off competition for some Fortune 500 companies moving into their state, without imaging or imagining what depletion the move may have on the 'looser-state' labor force of the migrating corporation. Furthermore, some states are looking at unemployment compensation from the prism of potential fraud, without investigating alternatives to unemployment compensations as solution to unemployment problems. Despite the ravages of unemployment on our neighborhoods, the reality of machine power, consequence of increased production efficiency, is probably outstripping the management's ability to retain more on the job. Some might view the increasing advances in information technology as needed energy for growth without contemplating reforms to the old solution of unemployment compensation. We beg to differ and are calling for visitation of a solution that is probably archaic considering advances in information technology and how they are rapidly changing the face of the economy. 

It is important to understand that the nation cannot afford to undermine the welfare of its people because of the failure to act; or, advances in one area of America's economy, information technology. Whether we like it or not, the tsunami of change that is coming to the production processes and the possible impact of machine power taking over many more professions are real. It is time to start looking at alternatives for many more Americans that will be turned out to pastures because of advances in information technology.  The fragments of disorder to human welfare from threats of advances in information technology are potentially going to quadruple in the coming years, as production processes continue to be stream lined with advances in machine language and its ability to replace man in the labor force. Change is here and its consequences are making old economics paradigm questionable, if not on shaky grounds.

In this article, we have argued for new approaches to solving the cyclical unemployment problem in America's Economy, absent the conventional unemployment insurance payment to the long term unemployed. The serious threats of machine power to the continued employment and welfare of many Americans are real. Advances in computer coding and algorithm are going to bring a wave of change that has the potential of eradicating many more professions and getting more Americans out of work. The argument here is not to kill the machine or slow down pace of how information technology is revolutionizing production processes or impacting employment; rather, the argument is to find a newer solution to an old problem that is not going to go away. We are suggesting that Congress revisit unemployment compensation as a panacea to solving structural unemployment problem, because the nature of the problem or factors that precipitate long term unemployment, while still similar somewhat during the rapid industrialization of the forties, fifties and sixties, are hardly the same, consequent from what we are experiencing in the economy. The reasons for economic recession are compelling; the revolutionary change from quadrupling advances in coding and algorithms are even more compelling and the potential they have in impacting long-term unemployment, deserve a second look. Adoption of newer solutions to combating long term unemployment and practical solutions to shoring up unemployment insurance are probably in order just, considering what is to come.

Before being labeled as an alarmist, it is imperative that you look at the various illustrative examples of how people have lost their jobs or been displaced or replaced by machines; or, how corporate decisions have off-shored some production processes, vis-à-vis, jobs. The vexing problem of unemployment is not going to go away by itself; and, the divided congress isn’t affording a more concrete look at social welfare programs, not from the prism of cost, but from a more holistic and practical way that may bring succor to those who have lost their jobs and those about to.  Corporate America would continue to look out for its bottom line, just as it should rightly do; however, our government has the obligation to remain the government of the people and by the people. For this and other reasons, we are calling for a revisit of using unemployment insurance compensation as the primordial solution to structural unemployment.  In conclusion, we are suggesting that the consideration of other methods of addressing structural and cyclical unemployment, endemic of the free market economy, is evidential and not out of order, considering the potential change around the corner. The alternative methods of ameliorating unemployment problems will contribute newer knowledge to understanding how to better address this nagging problem; and, significantly assist American families through recovery of imminent unemployment and its associated problems.