OBAMA IS EASY TO FOLLOW:,By Louise Annarino, October 9,2012

9 Oct

OBAMA IS EASY TO FOLLOW, By Louise Annarino, October 9, 2012


Let’s talk about the safety nets Romney-Ryan (even Bill O’Reilly – http://voice4america.com/articles/2012/10/08/the-rumble-2012-bill-oreilly-vs-jon-stewart.html ) would shred. As a newly licensed attorney working at The Columbus Legal Aid Society during the Carter and Reagan Administrations, I represented those who had been wrongfully denied safety net benefits such as food stamps, Aid to Families With Dependent Children or AFDC, and General Relief. I understood the value of these programs. Having been terminated from my earlier job as a social worker at Marysville for  Women Maximum Security Prison and wrongfully denied Unemployment Benefits I relied on general relief and food stamps (I could eat), a compassionate landlady willing to defer rent (I did not become homeless) until my appeal had been heard, and a bank manager willing to refinance and defer my car payments ( I could continue my job search) for 3 months.


My former employer justified my termination and attempted to block my unemployment benefits because of the Black Studies programs I had implemented, and the trusting willingness of inmates to use me as an intermediary during their prison take-over. After a 3 month wait for a decision on my appeal regarding unemployment benefits, the appeal board found no wrongdoing on my part and granted full benefits. Until then, I had to rely on the social safety-net many of my fellow citizens rely on today.


Each month I stood on line with hundreds of other food stamp recipients to prove my income source, cost of rent/utilities/medical expenditures etc. The longer I was on public assistance the less money I received since I became poorer, and could pay fewer bills. I was no longer able to afford a doctor visit or fill my prescriptions for IBS, and had my phone disconnected. Consequently, I had fewer receipts to prove expenses. The amount of food stamps declined, but I still received $111 per month in General Relief benefits(this amount has barely risen in 30 years). These programs have been altered in scope, purpose. TANF (block grant program to help move recipients into work and turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance) program description by Franklin County Jobs and Family Services actually contains a statement “this is not an entitlement.”  As if the working poor feel entitled to ANYTHING.


I was very appreciative of the safety net. And,I was lucky. I was soon back on my feet with a job managing a Walden Book Store, while I continued looking for a job in my professional field, Student Personnel Work in Higher Education. Others who had been standing in line with me every month were not so lucky. They had children so could not afford to take a job paying less than their AFDC  and lose medicaid coverage for their kids.


Who were these persons? Women and children, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly, those between jobs and ineligible for unemployment benefits or appealing benefit denials. They became my clients when I joined Legal Aid. It was difficult enough to help them when Carter was president; whenReagan was elected it nearly became impossible.Reagan defined those using the safety nets “Welfare Queens”. If such a majestic  figure lived among my clients I never saw hid nor hair of her. I saw poverty which made me weep:

-a 48 year old man who looked 90 after working in the mines since he was 16 years old, fighting for Black Lung Benefits. His one room shack on Columbus’ south side lacked insulation and drywall; winter wind pushed through every crack, robbing the makeshift coal-fired iron stove he used for cooking and heating of any warmth. He slept on an uncovered box spring, without a mattress, sheets or a pillow. His only furniture, a small square table and a single hard chair, greyed with use. He insisted I sit on the chair while he stood during our interview, and I drank the coffee he brewed just for me from his single tin cup. By the end of that day, my colleagues and I had brought in a spare mattress, sheets,blankets, a pillow, plates and cups. When I won the appeal for food stamps and  Black Lung benefits he brought a gift he had made for me to my office, a blue teddy bear stuffed with dried grass. He was a noble man, not a welfare queen.


-a 97 year old woman whose earliest memory was of her legs dangling as she sat at the back edge of the wagon carrying her family west to Nebraska Territory. When I won her food stamps appeal, she invited me to share the first baked potato she had been able to buy in years. She was overjoyed at her stocked pantry and asked me to celebrate with her. She was a noble woman, not a welfare queen.


-a 76 year old recent widow facing eviction after the bank foreclosed on her home by summary judgement. Her husband had handled all finances. They lived on their social security,reduced by his death. When a bank sent her a credit card in the mail,she misunderstood and thought it was somehow related to her husband’s insurance pay-out. She used it to but gifts for her grandchildren, which she had never before been able to afford doing; and gifts for the nursing staff and others who had helped he through her husband’s illness. Within the first month she had used the entire limit stated and stopped using the card. Then the bills came. Then the demand letters, Then the foreclosure notice. Then the lawsuit. Then the eviction notice. She told no one, ashamed of her naivety and ignorance of financial matters. A  visiting neighbor caught her crying one day and called me. I filed an appeal and the bank settled  the appeal by agreeing they would not act upon their lien on her un-mortgaged property until her death. She could remain in her home until she died. She was a noble woman, not a welfare queen.


Then, President Reagan ordered the Social Security Administration to remove every disability recipient from the roles and require them to reapply and prove they were still entitled to benefits. He was certain that welfare fraud, and especially disability fraud, were rampant even though studies showed that the welfare fraud rate was a mere 1/4 of 1%. The Savings and Loan fraud was much more of a problem and caused huge economic losses across the country. Today, as then,Wall Street’s and the banking and mortgage systems’ fraud rate is much higher than any problems caused by safety net recipients; and, with much more severe consequences to the entire world, as we recently discovered. Deregulation of these industries opened up highways for fraud among the investors and their banks, investment houses, and mortgage companies. The impact of President Reagan’s off-the-roles disability order?

-a 37 year old blind from complications of untreated diabetes with severe heart abnormalities was removed from disability, became homeless, lost food stamps because he had no permanent address, lost medicare coverage, could not buy insulin or needles, and died from diabetic coma and heart attack. My appeals for food stamps, temporary emergency housing, and restoration of disability benefits were granted in his favor 2 weeks after his death.


When I listen to Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Riley state how compassionate they are, how those who DESERVE help should get it but through private enterprise not with your hard-earned tax dollars, how BIG GOVERNMENT is creating and increasing the deficit; BUT, THEY WILL NOT RAISE TAXES on the top 2% whose rate are the lowest in 30 years, how they will budget MORE money to buy military equipment but not vote to make the veteran’s safety net stronger and call it strengthening the military I want to join Jon Stewart and say  these people live on “BULL SHIT MOUNTAIN”  where welfare queens threaten their very existence. Human beings of great dignity are using the safety nets, and they deserve government support to put food in their mouths and a roof over their heads as much as those living on  Bullshit Mountain deserve tax breaks and government support to accumulate and build their wealth.


President Obama, those who live on “bullshit Mountain” say, stole $716 from medicare to pay for Obamacare. What they don’t say is Obama did not cut  $716 billion from medicare but saved it through reduced provider reimbursements and by curbing waste, fraud and abuse. Both Romney and Ryan agree their administration will allocate the exact same amount, $716 million from “medicare cuts” to reduce the deficit, as was done in the Republicans’ FY 2013 budget, which Ryan authored. While Romney-Ryan bemoan Big Government fraud, President Obama has been busy eliminating it.


How did President Obama budget that savings? He used it to pay for Obamacare. He closed the ”donut hole” created by Republican’s unfunded Medicare Part D. Medicare now provides, free or without co-pay for preventive care and tests for:

-annual wellness visit

-tobacco use cessation counseling

-screenings for bone mass measurement,cervical cancer, pap smear and cervical exam,cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings, colorectal screenings, diabetes, HIV, prostrate cancer


-flu shot,pneumonia shot,and hepatitis B shot

-medical nutrition therapy to manage diabetes or kidney disease

Full details can be reviewed at http://www.healthcare.gov/law/features/65-older/medicare-preventive-services/index.html


President Obama is not stealing from medicare since the funds remain within the budget to increase,improve,streamline and lower cost of services to the government and for recipients. It is Romney-Ryan budget which does steal this amount from medicare to pay down the deficit, so they can justify not fairly increasing taxes on the top 2%. They insist only by cutting the safety net can they reduce the deficit. President

Obama has shown us a better way! Yet, Republicans, led by Ryan-Boehner-Mitchell et al continue a disinformation campaign of massive proportions and block every effort by President Obama to improve our economy, create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure,reduce the deficit, and keep a new and improved safety-net in place. What is truly amazing is how well our president is doing despite these obstructionists.

As my friend Carol Mason wrote me this morning: “Have you read Doris Kearns-Goodwin’s book ‘No Ordinary Time’“? It is the story of FDR’s presidencies during those “unordinary times.” President Obama is, I learned, a student of FDR’s terms of office. And this “unordinary” time Obama inherited may be why he sought insight from FDR’s years and experience.


“…the notion that an intelligent, ethically minded leader of goodwill, planning strategically, moving within a BIG picture, hoping to solve BIG problems, would not be easy to “follow.” It’s a complicated, interconnected mess of circumstances one must navigate, to lead a country the size and scope of America. Goodwin revealed a level and almost unfathomable scope of information FDR worked with that virtually no other human being had the collective knowledge of. And it was from this unique perspective that he master-minded a strategy and led the tactical charge for pulling America out of the Depression and on the winning side of the Second World War.


“I trust in President Obama’s intelligence, his integrity and his desire to make change for the good. And I have seen over time, how his modest behavior, though not flashy enough for some, has–behind the scenes–gotten a lot of things done.” Carol and I agree that Obama is easy to  follow after all!


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