“Death Panels” Alive and Well – Have a Happy New Year Seniors!

by Jayne D. Frank

Update:  Because of the uproar of American voices over this issues below, the Obama Administration for the second time removed any language paying doctors for and mandating end of life counselling during seniors yearly physical (the power of We the People)!

Unphased by the outrage from Americans during the health care debate this year, the Obama Administration and newly appointed Medicare and Medicaid Director Donald Berwick planned all along to include “death panels” in the ongoing care of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, and so we see it raise its ugly head again in the form of regulations for the yearly “government-sponsored”  wellness visits for seniors.   The Administration will argue that there is nothing mandatory in the regulations, but the counselling is to be “yearly” and doctors are given incentives to include end-of-life counselling in every senior’s yearly wellness checks now.  It is the right thing for seniors to have their Directives and wishes put down in writing as they age, but this is a family matter and not to be coerced by government regulators.

Let’s consider a couple of personal observations here:

  • During my husband’s annual wellness visit which he has always paid for himself, because he IS cognizant that early treatment of any problem staves off massive healthcare costs later, received a new letter from his internist as he arrived for his annual appointment.  Two things immediately jumped off the paper to me. One was a statement that the “health care team” will always be there for him (what about his doctor?), and that they were turning their office of internists into a “home care center” where they may involve you in decisions of how “aggressive” your care should be, and that “your goals” will be reviewed along with the “doctor’s goals” for treatment to see if they match.  This was in August, 2010 that this was issued.  Anything familiar here?  The doctors knew this was coming in some form with Obamacare and they are just preparing for what is to come.
  • My dad had Stage IV cancer a few years ago and during that cancer, broke his leg in an auto accident, and still decided to fight not only through rehabilitation (which was successful), but also through his cancer treatments.  He was walking after his rehab, taking care of my mother and still enjoying some quality of life with his family at holidays and even a vacation thrown in by the family.  He lasted 2 years.  Had it been in today’s environment, he would have been asked to “die quickly” upon his diagnosis because of all the people without insurance that the government had to cover, many of whom chose on purpose not to be covered or lived a horrible lifestyle where they couldn’t get insurance.  Should I have given up the time laughing with my father for some of those slugs in the system?  I don’t think so.  My father worked hard as an engineer all his life and worked as many jobs as were necessary to make sure he and my mother’s health insurance was paid for.
  • My sister-in-law is 82 now and just went successfully through open heart surgery a year ago for blocked arteries.  This year, we laughed together as we prepared Christmas dinner and she hurried through the house putting together cookie boxes for her whole family.  The house was also beautifully decorated again for Christmas, all done by this gorgeous and kind woman.  She will soon need a new hip, and do you think there is any chance if that surgery is requested by her in the next year or so, that she will be given that hip? I think not because of the cost.  Under some guise that it will not dramatically improve the quality of her life, she will probably be denied that operation, thereby rendering herself useless and a burden to her husband and the rest of the family as she immediately resorts to a wheelchair and modification to her home.  Again, an industrious woman with a career all her life who has paid for her own insurance for more than 60 years.

These scenarios will play out  all across America and our seniors will be asked to sacrifice their quality of life and in some cases, their lives,  to pay for the cost of Obamacare for those that did not want to pay, are here illegally, or who live such a bad lifestyle that they are going to need emergency room visits for those complications for their drugs or smoking habits.

To me, it is criminal and disrespectful how we are proposing to treat our seniors and this is one of the reasons we need to repeal Obamacare and fix the problems that do exist in our health care system, one by one, a step at a time.  We can fix the cost of health care by tort reform and fraud and abuse.  We can insure those that truly deserve to be insured, but not on the backs of our parents!  I hope that while the dozens of state lawsuits are making their way to the Supreme Court and the 112th  Congress is busy working on legislation to fix Obamacare, that during the State of the Union address in February, that someone else like Rep. Wilson has the courage and guts to stand up to President Obama and say “You lie!”

The Insidious Creeping Threat to Senior Citizens

By: Richard H. Frank

There are about 50 million Americans, or about 16% of our population receiving Social Security benefits today many of whom have retired in the past ten years. Their dream for independent living during what was to be their “Golden Years” has turned out to be just a dream. More than 64% of those retired persons depend upon Social Security as their only means of income upon which to provide for themselves and their families and some of those could have done better except for the fact that they lost most of their savings in the last stock market downturn.

The majority of these individuals paid into the system their entire working life and are now faced with living within the limits of their fixed income.The last cost-of-living increase seen by these individuals came in their 2009 benefit increase and amounted to 5.8% largely due to sky rocketing oil and food price experienced the prior year.  This resulted in establishing a CPI benchmark cap of 215.495 before any future increases would be granted. Additionally, the calculation for the CPI was changed to exclude the costs of energy and food from the calculation as these were considered too volatile and short-lived to accurately forecast the rate of inflation and thus a true estimate for the “cost-of-living index.”

So just what has occurred between 2005 and 2010 with regard to the impact of food and energy upon the CPI (consumer price index)?  The answer is that the buying power of the fixed income dollar for those people receiving social security has decreased by 52%.  The very items excluded from calculations for cost of living are those that impact the day-to-day existence of our senior citizens.  Consider the following increases between 2005 and 2010:

  • Food increased 65.23%
  • Oil increased 50.16%
  • Coal (energy) increased 168.77%

Energy costs which include power generation and impact food production and the associated distribution costs of all groups are a cancer that is slowly eroding the purchasing power of the dollar.  Yet we have a Government that has no coherent energy policy and does nothing to promote energy independence for America.  Instead, the politicians are content to impose drilling moratoriums and stop exploration for oil in favor of the imposition of onerous penalties such as cap and trade regulations in an effort to stop mythical greenhouse gas emissions.  Eventually, all of their actions and inactions are born by the individual in the form of higher costs for energy and goods produced with that energy.

The real rate of inflation including food and energy costs has exceeded the reported CPI for any year since 2008 and is being borne totally by the fixed income of those receiving social security.  Over the next 20 years the number of those persons eligible to receive benefits will increase by approximately 1% each year due largely to the baby boomers turning 65 years of age.  Unless the continuing trend of higher costs for energy and food is reversed or benefits indexed to include these higher costs, our senior citizen population will be relegated to living below the poverty level owing to unaccountable inflationary influences brought about by energy and food costs. Unless these realities are recognized we shall have created an underclass of aging citizens in America.

Inflation is the insidious creeping threat to every senior citizen in America today and is consuming upward to 10% of their fixed income each year, a situation which is unsustainable.

 

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The 111th Congress-Arrogant or Just Plain Stupid!

by Richard H. Frank

The Washington, D.C. soap opera continues as members in the House of Representatives and the Senate play chicken with the economic future of this Nation and the American people.  From the perspective of many Americans it would be better if the 111th Congress would just take a recess and go home until January 5th, 2011 when the New 112th Congress takes office.

Apparently, these legislators did not get the message from the electorate in the 2010 mid-term elections.  If they did, then we are witness to pure arrogance and disdain for their constituents on the part of Congress.

The existing debt limit for Government is now $14.1 trillion and has been raised ten times in recent years.  Should the Omnibus Spending Bill now in the Senate be passed to fund our Government, America will incur an additional $1.1 trillion in debt which will exceed the existing limit.  Passing this legislation will add insult to injury and “We the People” should keep a list of each and every member of Congress that votes for the 1924+ page monstrosity and show them the door when they come up for re-election.

Call your Congressmen and Senators and tell them “enough is enough” and that they must vote against out-of- control Government spending or face the consequences for their actions.

Should they not get the message that they work for us, we will give them a chance to work for someone else beginning in 2012.  The world is watching our ability and willingness to tackle our out-of-control spending and Congress is not heeding the warnings of those world economists that have said our economic standing in the world can turn on a dime based upon our actions.  Just say “No.”

The Real Cure for What Ails Washington, D.C.

by Richard H. Frank

Watching the 111th Congress conduct their Lame Duck Session is like watching the writers for “Saturday Night Live” prepare one of their satire scripts.  It would truly be funny to watch if the situation in America were not so serious.  The goings on in the House of Representatives and the Senate have nothing to do with finding solutions to today’s pressing economic problems but have everything to do with the politics of being re-elected in 2012.

The message sent by the electorate in the 2010 mid-term elections that Americans want smaller government, reduced spending and less interference in our lives seems to have been totally disregarded by the 111th Congress.  Instead of working toward an orderly transition to the new 112th Congress in January, the old guard is once again intent on jamming each and every piece of liberal legislation down the throats of their constituents.

Suddenly, President Obama has changed the very language he has used to describe the impact of his policies upon our economy.  The Bush tax rates set to expire in January that he referred to as  ” payments to the rich” are now being called a”stimulus to the economy.”  Additionally, he is taking credit for any extension of these rates as his “tax cuts.”  The reality of the situation is that there are no tax cuts, only retention of the status quo.

The realization that letting the Bush tax rates expire would prove devastating to whatever recovery we may have experienced is the light bulb that just went on in his head.  As for stopping uncontrolled spending that only adds to the deficit, our President and Congress seem to think continuing to extend unemployment compensation is a fair tradeoff for extending the Bush tax rates for all Americans.

Five days after receiving the recommendation from the “Obama Debt Commission” every action our President and Congress is taking runs contrary to the recommendations contained in the report.

All of these actions by the President and Congress just go to prove that pandering to the special interests, party politics and getting re-elected, take precedent over solving this nation’s problems.

The only hope for the future of our children and grandchildren in American is to change the manner in which Washington does business.  The only means to change the way business is done is to change those that purport to represent us.

Our Founding Fathers never envisioned a professional politician that would make a career out of representing “We the People.”  Service to them was an honor not to be abused or taken for granted as a profession.  Yet today, the House of Representatives and the Senate are filled with people who believe they have earned, and are entitled to, their position by virtue of seniority without regard to their accomplishments at representing their constituents.  Power has gone to their heads and thus they fall prey to corruption by special interests. Unfortunately, this is the nature of man and some are more susceptible to being corrupted than are others.

Our Constitution sets forth the requirements and qualifications for individuals to serve in the Congress but places no limits upon the number of terms they may be elected to serve.  In a perfect world, this would not pose any problems; however, we do not live in a perfect world.  The quest to acquire power and retain it leads men to self-service as opposed to service of the electorate.

The Constitution has been amended such that a President may serve not more than two terms in that office.  A new Amendment limiting the service of members of the House of Representatives to six terms (12 years) and members of the Senate to two terms (12 years) would go a long way toward curing the quest for power in Washington.  New blood in the form of representatives elected by the people, having a defined timeframe to work for the people, may tend to discharge their duties in the honorable way envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

The old guard in Congress argues that we currently have term limits imposed by the voters in each and every election.  Unfortunately, the average voter pays little attention to the accomplishments of his or her Congressman and only votes upon name or party recognition.  Term limits will help reduce the influence of party and name forcing the electorate to become more familiar with the candidate and what values he brings to the office he is seeking to occupy.

Fresh blood, fresh ideas and the passion for service above power are the fruits derived from term limits over time.

Remembering Pearl Harbor

by Richard H. Frank

December 7, 1957 was a day not much different from any other for those of us stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois.  The company of recruits that I was a part of was in the process of finishing our basic training and preparing for graduation.

Our company Commander, Chief Boatswain’s mate John J. Barcus, was  a tough, seasoned veteran of World War II and Korea and in the final assignment of his career.  His facial features resembled those of the Actor Wallace Beery and his voice and mannerisms also were characteristically similar.

Throughout the three months of training under the scrutiny of Chief Barcus, each recruit under his charge grew to respect his knowledge, the service and above all, our Country.  The Chief never showed favoritism for any particular recruit under his charge nor did he fraternize  with the recruits when off duty or on a liberty pass.  His personal life was a mystery to all of us with one exception. That exception was that we knew he drove a brand new silver and black 1957 Chevrolet two door with a red interior.  He kept his car as spotless and sharp as he did his uniform, service ribbons and the gold hash marks on the sleeve of  his coat indicating his years of service.

On this particular December 7th, the Chief entered our barracks, removed his cap and motioned for the company to gather around the picnic table located in the center of the barracks upon which he was seated.  He went on to say that we, company 399, had completed our basic training and distinguished ourselves by winning the coveted “E” Flag for excellence.  He stated he was proud of us and that we too should be proud of our accomplishments as recruits.

He went on to say that for many career Navy men this particular day, December 7th, held a special significance. It was the beginning of a long and terrible war initiated by the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Navy on December 7, 1941 resulting in the loss of over 2500 American service personnel.  The Chief went on to explain that the date for him held a very personal significance as he withdrew a small piece of newsprint from his wallet.  The paper was yellowed but the print was clear as he read aloud the Death Notice from  his hometown newspaper reporting the death notice of 18-year old, Seaman John J. Barcus of the USS Arizona.

Chief Barcus carried this notice with him as a reminder of the events of that morning, December 7, 1941 at about 8:00 am and how lucky he was to be alive.

The Chief went on to tell us that he had the duty on that particular Sunday morning and had just finished setting up the altar for non-denominational Sunday worship on the fantail of the Arizona.

According to the Chief, he was in the process of proceeding below deck when the first wave of Japanese bombers struck the Arizona.  He stated there was mass confusion as General Quarters was sounded and the crew was ordered to battle stations.  He recalled the Arizona being hit and the explosion that followed and the order to abandon ship.

The Chief said he didn’t recall being frightened but that he needed to proceed below deck to his bunk to recover a new pair of boots he had purchased the previous evening in Honolulu while on liberty.  He said one of the Boatswain’s mates grabbed him forcing him overboard into the water covered with burning oil.

The Chief said the last thing he remembered as he hit the burning oil and water was that he could not swim.  Seaman John Barcus ,badly burned, somehow wound up on a nearby beach where he was found and carried to a civilian hospital near Pearl Harbor.  He was reported missing in action and presumed killed during the attack and believed to be entombed with 1177 shipmates still, to this day, aboard the Arizona .

John Barcus remained in the hospital for two weeks before he was able to identify himself to naval personnel and eventually return to duty.  According to Chief Barcus he carried his obituary in memory of his shipmates and all of those that gave their lives at Pearl Harbor.  He carried the scars of burns on his face as a reminder of that fateful day each morning as he looked into the mirror to shave.

Fifty three years have passed since Chief Barcus told us of his experience at Pearl Harbor. My attempts to establish what happened to the Chief have failed to find any record of his having been on the  Arizona’s ships roster, nor can I find a record of his having been at the training center in 1957. This fact may be due to my  inability to recall the proper spelling of his name, or just the accuracy of records kept 69 years ago.  When asked why he would have made up such a story, my answer is that I don’t think he did. There was nothing in his telling us what happened to make him out to be a hero, but only to honor the memory of those that served and died that day. According to unofficial records there are only 20 remaining living veterans from the Arizona in 2010. These men are members of a very special elite group of individuals.

I don’t know if Chief Barcus is among those alive today, or if he has been lost to us as some 800 veterans/day from WWII join the Almighty. Still, his memory is alive with those of us from Company 399 and all of  the young sailors trained by Chief John J. Barcus, USN.

 

President’s Voting “Present” is Akin to Dereliction of Duty

by Jayne D. Frank

With the American economy on the brink of collapse with its debt, staggering unemployment, entitlement promises that cannot be kept, and a national security policy that must be the laughing stock of the world, today, we find the President dead silent once again and voting “Present” before the Debt Commission takes its vote on the Commission Report just released which would force a vote in Congress.  Let us review recent instances where the President has tried to appease his far-left base by remaining silent where a Commander-in-Chief has the responsibility to weigh in for no other reason than to give confidence to the American people:

  • He has failed to speak out and provide support for the Debt Commission report
  • He failed to speak out and act for months in the Gulf Oil Disaster
  • The President couldn’t bring himself to immediately speak out on the wisdom of building the Ground Zero Mosque
  • He abdicated the creation of the disastrous health care bill to Congress
  • His response to the North Korean provoked attack on South Korea was weak at best
  • The length of time it took for him to respond to the Military’s request for additional troops in Afghanistan was deplorable
  • He has failed to acknowledge terrorist attacks of Muslim extremists (i.e., Fort Hood massacre), the underwear bomber, Time Square bomber and the latest attempt to kill thousands at a Portland, OR Christmas celebration
  • He has made the decision not to speak out on the necessity of having military trials for terrorists (both foreign and domestic) to assure that people who are tried for attempting to or were successful in killing Americans are prosecuted thoroughly and are given just punishment.
  • His latest surrender of his duty is his failure to make any decisions to extend the tax cuts for everyone, including businesses and individuals that are the only source for creating private-sector jobs in this County.  He left that decision once again, with less than 30 days for an action to take place, to subordinates to handle.

The list goes on, but the point is that the American people cannot afford to have a President who doesn’t have the courage to defend our Country, make the crucial decisions necessary to save our economy and our jobs, and does not have the knowledge, experience or conviction to be strong overseas or in America concerning national security. The only time he speaks out is when, on occasions such as the recent spike to 9.8% unemployment level, he comes on camera to say “I didn’t do it!”  It reminds me of a small boy being called on the carpet by his parents.  I will call it like it is.  He is a weak President, unable to perform the duties of his office, and I just pray to God that we come out of this four-year debacle of his Presidency able to recuperate and bring about legislation to reverse his actions which were nothing more than pandering to his extremist left base supporters.

Kabuki Theater in the House of Representatives!

by Richard H. Frank

Thursday December 2, 2010 once again showed why the 111th Congress will go down as possibly having the lowest approval rating in the history of our Republic.  Less than 24 hours following a meeting between the incoming leadership of the 112th Congress and President Obama where a photo-op of bipartisanship took place, Nancy Pelosi reverted to manipulating House rules to pass a tax increase for 2011 under the guise of extending current rates for those earning $250,000 or less, knowing full well that it had no chance of passing in the Senate.

After spending the majority of the day’s session to pass a bill that will undoubtedly be stopped in the Senate, the remainder of the session was devoted to the Censure proceedings against New York Representative  Charlie Rangel.

The process could be compared to Japanese Kabuki theater with the Ethics Committee presenting a summary of the charges against Rangel and their findings and recommendations to the House for Censure.

The next hour, we heard Rangel and his supporters make a weak case that mistakes were made but that Censure was too extreme a punishment for the offenses proven, relying on the sympathy of people remembering that 60 years ago he fought in the Korean War as many of other Americans watching this debacle have done.  All these pleas were followed by voting on an Amendment to the Resolution to allow for a Reprimand in lieu of Censure, a more appropriate punishment fitting the offense.

Two things were very evident insofar as Rangel’s remarks were concerned.  First was the lack of sincerity and conviction contained in his admission to having made mistakes (his interpretation of breaking the law).  Next the same air of arrogance he displayed the day he walked out of  his Hearing with the Committee was evident in his demeanor again today.

The only real surprises came in the final voting results by the House membership on the Amendments to reduce the penalty to a Reprimand and the final vote for Censure.  Either the House members suddenly had a good dose of conscience or Charlie received payback for  his past deeds from his contemporaries.

The  vote for Reprimand went down in flames while the final vote to Censure was adopted by over 330 members.  The finale to this soap opera came as Nancy Pelosi hurriedly read the Censure and penalty consisting of paying all taxes owing.  The entire process could not even be compared to a slap on the wrist but constituted something much less in my opinion.

Rangel’s statement that “This isn’t the worst day in my life” certainly was not an understatement.  If he was embarrassed, it didn’t show in his demeanor.  For Charlie it was just another day on the Hill wherein he was the center of attention.  Rangel is the quintessential example of someone who has been in Government too long.  He considers himself among the elite Washington Insiders who is far above those he was elected to represent.

So as far as the 111th Congress is concerned today was just another day at work, with nothing accomplished. I guess we will just have to keep close tabs on the 112th Congress and hold them accountable for their actions or lack thereof in 2012.