Welfare and Medicaid Cuts Raise Infant Mortality Rate

Conservatives kill babies.

Not with their own hands, of course. They don’t strangle them in their cribs. They let their anti-life policies do it for them.

For decades but especially for the last 12 years, the very same conservatives who scream that the removal of an unformed scut of cells in a womb is murder have been systematically depriving real life pregnant women who will be carrying to term of luxuries like food and adequate medical care because they’re “too expensive”.

At the Federal level, Medicaid and welfare have been consistently cut every year conservatives have ruled the roost in order to trim taxes to the nub for the rich, hand over $$$billions$$$ in corporate welfare to their masters campaign contributors, and prosecute a war nobody wanted on behalf of neoconservative imperialists too dumb to know enough to come in out of the rain. In primarily liberal Democratic states, some of that safety net has been replaced but in the predominantly-conservative Southern states, it hasn’t and the results are coming in. They’re not pretty, but then nothing much in conservative-run America is these days.

The policies of so-called “pro-life” conservatives are raising infant mortality rates in the South to the such a point that Third World countries have lower rates than parts of the US. Are we proud yet?

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Poverty and Educational Consultants

In one of its rare attempts to deal with the issue of poverty, the Washington Post takes note of an educational consultant named Ruby Payne who specializes in teaching teachers what to expect from poor kids in a classroom and how to deal with it when they get it.

The Texas-based author says in her book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty”: Parents in poverty typically discipline children by beating or verbally chastising them; poor mothers may turn to sex for money and favors; poor students laugh when they get in trouble at school; and low-income parents tend to “beat around the bush” during parent-teacher conferences, instead of getting to the point.

In the past several years, at least five school systems in the Washington area have turned to Payne’s lessons, books and workshops.

At first glance this may look like the kind of stereotypical folderol that’s been spit out for years – decades – by educational “consultants” who cut their teeth on conservative propaganda from the Heritage Foundation and glean most of their “information” from HF “poverty studies” so skewed they have no value outside a right-winger’s head. And that’s the way it’s being taken by her critics.

But many academics say her works are riddled with unverifiable assertions. At the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in Chicago last week, professors from the University of Texas at Austin delivered a report on Payne that argued that more than 600 of her descriptions of poverty in “Framework” cannot be proved true.”

She claims there is a single culture of poverty that people live in. It’s an idea that’s been discredited since at least the 1960s,” said report co-author Randy Bomer.

Absolutely true, and it makes Payne dangerous in the same sense that all stereotyping is dangerous.

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Murdering the Homeless: Teens Obey Conservative Message

For 30 years, conservatives have been advocating Class Warfare, pitting one group against another for political advantage – whites against minorities, the poor against the middle-class, and the rich against everybody who isn’t. They have fueled their divisiveness with violent, eliminationist rhetoric and a relentless “blame the victim” ideology aimed at promoting guilt-free greed and self-supporting selfishness. They have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

The AP is reporting that five teenagers in Orlando, Florida, killed a homeless man for kicks.

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The Silent Epidemic, 2007

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called “The Silent Epidemic” about the lack of dental care for the poor.

There’s a perception that dental health is somehow a ‘luxury’. Not for the poor, it isn’t. We are judged more harshly by our appearance than most, and teeth are a big part of that. I grew up with a kid who’d had to have his teeth removed and replaced by a dental plate before he was 12. He was ostracized by other kids, seen as retarded by the school administration even though he was quite bright, and in general placed on a path that would ensure he never rose above his ‘natural place’.

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It’s something we suffer in silence and nobody else is talking about it, either. Dental insurance exists but it’s prohibitively expensive even though most dental procedures are a lot cheaper than your standard medical procedure; health insurance will pay thousands of dollars for a tonsillectomy but refuse to pay a few hundred for a root canal. I don’t, in all honesty, know why.

Maybe it’s because only the poor need help paying for such things.

I remember wanting to mention at the time that poor dental care can sometimes mean death but I didn’t write that because I didn’t think anybody would believe me.

Believe it.

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday. Continue reading

Bush Priorities: Iraq v. Medicare

Juxtaposing two articles, one from the NYT on Friday and the other printed in the WaPo yesterday, says pretty much all that needs to be said about what the Bush Administration thinks is important. From the WaPo:

President Bush will ask Congress for close to three-quarters of a trillion dollars in defense spending on Monday, including $245 billion to cover the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and other elements of the “global war on terror,” senior administration officials said yesterday.

Democrats said the gigantic spending request will precipitate “sticker shock” on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers were already planning to scrutinize White House war-spending requests more zealously.

But on Friday:

President Bush will ask Congress in his budget next week to squeeze more than $70 billion of savings from Medicare and Medicaid over the next five years, administration officials and health care lobbyists said Thursday.The proposals, part of a White House plan to balance the budget by 2012, set the stage for a battle with Congress over entitlement spending. Even some administration officials say they cannot imagine approval of such large cutbacks in a Congress now controlled by Democrats.

Mr. Bush is also expected to propose changes in the Children’s Health Insurance Program to sharpen its focus on low-income families. The changes could reduce federal payments to states that cover children with family incomes exceeding twice the poverty level. Under federal guidelines, a family of four is considered poor if its annual income is less than $20,650.

For an illegal, pre-emptive war based on lies and greed, everything. Massive debt, death and destabilization? He’s for them. But for the poor, even poor children? “Go suck an egg.”

To quote Molly, this crowd is beyond belief.

Higher Earnings Cut Support for Poor Families

I’ve spoken before of the tricks conservatives have embedded in the welfare regs to make the poor ineligible for help the instant they raise their heads above water. The National Center for Children in Poverty has released a study done in Pennsylvania that shows that those tricks, developed under Reagan, are still very much in use.

About 85 percent of low-income children have parents who work, and most have at least one parent working full-time, year-round. Nonetheless, many of these parents are unable to afford basic necessities for their families, such as food, housing, and stable child care. Even a full-time job is not always enough to make ends meet, and many parents cannot get ahead simply by working more. As earnings increase—particularly as they rise above the official poverty level—families begin to lose eligibility for work supports. At the same time, work-related expenses, such as child care and transportation, increase. This means that parents may earn more without a family experiencing more financial security. (1) In some cases, earning more actually leaves a family with fewer resources after the bills are paid.

The Family Resource Simulator, developed by the National Center for Children in Poverty, illustrates how this happens. This web-based tool allows users to chart a hypothetical family’s progress in the workforce and to see how public policies reward and encourage employment—and sometimes discourage parents from earning more.

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The Silent Epidemic

By HEATH FOSTER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

Angelito Haney was just over a year old when his teeth started to fall apart. Chips of the curly-haired toddler’s baby teeth would come out if he bit down on a plastic toy.

The SeaTac boy’s pediatrician gave his mother the card of a local dentist. But when Tammy Haney called to make an appointment, she was told the dentist wouldn’t accept her son’s Medicaid coverage.

These days, only one in three practicing dentists in the state accept the low-paying government insurance for poor families. But it’s not just the poor who have trouble obtaining care.

More than three times as many Americans lack dental insurance as lack health insurance. About 3.1 million people in Washington — half the state’s population — have no dental insurance or rely on Medicaid. For them, care has become a luxury afforded only after the rent has been paid and food put on the table — and often only when tooth pain becomes unbearable.

The U.S. surgeon general has called this growing lack of dental access a national “silent epidemic.”

Angelito’s mother lost her family’s insurance when she was laid off from her $15-an-hour job in the accounts-payable department of a large painting company. She had no savings to pay for a private dentist.

When she finally got her son to the non-profit Odessa Brown Dental Clinic in Seattle a year later, the damage was done. The painful toothaches keeping Angelito awake at night had come from dying nerves and an abscess in the bone threatening the development of his permanent teeth.

After a six-month wait, a surgical team at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center sealed, capped and filled as many of his teeth as they could. They had no choice but to send the talkative boy home earlier this month without any front teeth.

In recent years, surgery to repair badly decayed teeth has become one of the top 10 procedures to fill Children’s operating suites. Pausing after pulling the last of six unsalvageable teeth, pediatric dentist Barbara Sheller remarked, “It’s heartbreaking to face the same difficulties in family after family. This is a really complex way to manage dental disease. If kids were getting routine dental care, we could avoid this.”

Disparities in Washington

About 40 percent of people under age 65 and 77 percent of seniors in the state are making do without dental insurance, according to estimates by the Washington Dental Service Foundation.

The only insurance that guarantees quick access to care is the increasingly expensive private kind. In 2002, just a third of the 1.1 million low-income people in Washington eligible for Medicaid-covered dental care actually saw a dentist, according to state data.

Meanwhile, those who do have the private insurance accepted by mainstream dentists are sometimes getting more treatment than they need, experts say. Tooth-whitening, a $600-million-a-year industry, has become the fastest growing segment of dentists’ practice, according to a 2002 American Dental Association survey.

“We have one group of people that is way over-seen, and another that is not being seen at all,” said Dr. Peter Milgrom, director of the University of Washington’s Northwest and Alaska Center to Reduce Dental Disparities.

A common rule of thumb in the dental world is that 80 percent of cavities are found in 20 percent of the patients — people who tend to be poor, elderly and members of immigrant and minority groups.

This isn’t a joke. Dental work isn’t on anybody’s radar screen, yet it affects the poor in ways it affects no other class of people. A couple of months ago, just about the time I started FTT, I developed gum problems that required pulling a lot of teeth. I managed to pay for the surgery but the continuing treatment I need to stop the gum disease is beyond my means, as is paying for a dental plate. The pain in my jaw is constant, talking is difficult–between the loss of teeth and the shooting pains that come whenever I try to move my jaw to form words, I am almost unintelligible when I try to talk–and eating almost impossible; I’ve had to give up eating a lot of vegetables simply because I can’t chew them. Except for hamburger, meat is out of the question. Nutritionally, my diet has gone to hell.

And I have health insurance–one of the main reasons I hang onto the job I have. In fact, until recently when my employer switched carriers, I had probably one of the best health insurance plans available in the state, and even it didn’t cover dental work.

There’s a perception that dental health is somehow a ‘luxury’. Not for the poor, it isn’t. We are judged more harshly by our appearance than most, and teeth are a big part of that. I grew up with a kid who’d had to have his teeth removed and replaced by a dental plate before he was 12. He was ostracized by other kids, seen as retarded by the school administration even though he was quite bright, and in general placed on a path that would ensure he never rose above his ‘natural place’.

Bad teeth affect our diets, our acceptance by society, and our ability to get jobs. Annie LaMott once wrote that of all the fears her neurotic mother suffered from, the fear of ‘people with rotten teeth–or worse, no teeth’ was the worst. ‘She felt there was something predatory about them. Mothers don’t like it when people without teeth look at their children.’

It’s something we suffer in silence and nobody else is talking about it, either. Dental insurance exists but it’s prohibitively expensive even though most dental procedures are a lot cheaper than your standard medical procedure; health insurance will pay thousands of dollars for a tonsillectomy but refuse to pay a few hundred for a root canal. I don’t, in all honesty, know why.

Maybe it’s because only the poor need help paying for such things.