Tag Archives: welfare

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

-mammograms

-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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REMEMBER ROMNEYHOOD,By Louise Annarino,August 7,2012

8 Aug

REMEMBER ROMNEYHOOD, By Louise Annarino,August 7,2012

 

Ronald Reagan took office as 40th. president of the United States in January 1981. By the close of his term in 1989 he had slashed domestic spending, reduced aid to cities by 60%, slashed public service jobs and job training, reduced funds for pubic transit benefiting cities while retaining highway funds benefiting suburbs,halved the budget for public housing and Section 8 and sought to eliminate housing assistance to the poor causing a steep increase in homelessness,widened the gap between rich and poor,(wages for average worker declined and home ownership rate fell),deregulated the Savings and Loan industry (leading to corruption,mismanagement and collapse of S&L’s requiring $100 billion government bailout) and attempted to dismantle legal services for the poor. (see more at http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/135/reagan.html )Reagan told us as Romney,Kasich,Mandel and Ryan now tell us that big tax cuts would pay for themselves by generating higher tax revenues through greater economic growth. President George W. Bush tried Reagan’s strategy and failed, just as Reagan did. Why would we expect Romney to achieve a different result using the same strategy?

 

I was a supervising attorney of the Senior Citizen Unit for The Legal Aid Society of Columbus during this time. I handled a caseload of 200 open cases, 350 altogether; and supervised another attorney with an equally large caseload, two paralegals, and a secretary. Our goal was to assist clients over 55 whose income fell well below the poverty line set in the 1950’s. Our cases involved consumer fraud, public benefits,medicare and medicaid,food stamps,hospital and medical bills, wills and powers of attorney/guardianships, housing, banking, land-lord tenant issues, mental health and a multitude of other legal issues. One cut made by President Reagan resulted in the deaths of three of my clients, and extreme suffering for hundreds of others.

 

President Reagan talked code to bigots,racists and economically advantaged white Americans in an attempt to stigmatize the poor, gut anti-poverty programs,and justify his tax cuts. “During his stump speeches while dutifully promising to roll back welfare, Reagan often told the story of a so-called “welfare queen” in Chicago who drove a Cadillac and had ripped off $150,000 from the government using 80 aliases, 30 addresses, a dozen social security cards and four fictional dead husbands. Journalists searched for this “welfare cheat” in the hopes of interviewing her and discovered that she didn’t exist.”(see more at http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2004-06-20/the-real-economic-legacy-of-ronald-reagan ). Reagan would have loved the interenet and used it along with political ads just as Mitt Romney does today – promising to roll back or privatize government benefits, requiring drug tests of welfare recipients, describing members of NAACP  as people who want free stuff from the government, falsely accusing President Obama of simply mailing out welfare checks to people unwilling to work. Working with Republican and Democratic governors HHS recently issued a memorandum allowing states to apply for waivers for TANF work requirement so long as the more flexible state project “demonstrates attainment of superior employment outcomes in lieu of participation rate requirements.” This is typical Obama pragmatism. If the state can demonstrate a different plan moves more people from welfare to work, HHS will be flexible and grant a waiver. Romney’s assertion is a complete distortion meant to appeal to voters who believe in welfare queens, or as Romney might state “big bucks” unwilling to work, a clear racial-code slur.(see more at http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/07/13165243-dubious-claim-behind-romney-welfare-attack?lite).

 

I dread where Romney’s distortions to justify tax cuts might lead us; and, how many Americans will suffer and even die as a result of old,failed policies. President Reagan ordered the Social Security Administration to remove all current disability recipients from active rolls, and require each one to reapply for benefits. He was certain that too many were fraudulently claiming to be disabled. He saw a welfare queen behind every bush. The actual fraud rate for welfare benefits at the time was 1/4 of 1%. Yet, American voters were told the rate was so high, every recipient was a suspect. So suspect that every SSD and SSI recipient was terminated. Those terminated lost a monthly income and medicare or medicaid coverage, and food stamps. They had no where to live, nothing to eat, could not see a doctor or go to the hospital, ran out of life-saving medications. Disability recipients are the most fragile among us.

 

My staff immediately filed new applications, and appeals of termination, for each client in our open and closed files. We posted flyers at community centers, senior centers and elsewhere offering our services. Many fell through the cracks. We also filed appeals for termination of low-income housing, evictions, food stamps and medicare or medicaid. We negotiated with landlords, doctors, pharmacies and hospitals begging patience until our cases could be heard. Most of our clients tried to hang on so long as they could. Others were too proud and disappeared into the streets. Others became so depressed they committed suicide. Three of my clients died simply because they lacked medication,food,medical care, and housing. I recall one phone call from a case manager at The Franklin County Welfare Department happily informing that finally (after 5 months) he was restoring my client’s food stamps. He thought I would be grateful and happy but I was crying. He asked why, “ Mr. X died yesterday from complications from diabetes and malnutrition. You are too late.”  Every single appeal I filed was granted. Reagan was dead wrong;too wrong, and too many dead as a result.

 

At the same time, Reagan announced he was eliminating Legal Services Corp. which funded legal aid societies like mine nationwide. He was frustrated that government was paying lawyers to appeal denial of  government benefits. My annual salary at the time was $12,600. Average salaries for lawyers in the private sector was $65,000. Congress reauthorized Legal Services but Reagan vetoed the funding bill. Staff agreed to work without pay, give up management positions and not replace those who gave up and left the agency until funding could be restored. I found a live-in position at a rooming house with no pay but free rent, installed soda machines in basement to pay for my bus transportation to work, and took an evening and week-end job as a toy store clerk to pay school loans and buy food while handling an ever-increasing caseload and grieving for my clients who were being so unjustly maligned and hatefully treated so that taxes could be cut and military spending increased by President Reagan. Now, Mitt Romney, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Senate candidate Josh Mandel wants a repeat performance. They pit voters against President Obama and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown,using the same disingenuous statistics and history.

 

Remember the Alamo! Remember Pearl Harbor! Remember 9/11! I ask you to remember Reaganomics, Trickle Down Economics, Bush Tax Cuts, and now Romneyhood. We cannot allow politicians to prey on false fears when we have something real to fear. We must never forget that code messages stoking race-baiting, homophobia, and misogyny with lies and distortions will lead to death and disaster. I wish I could have saved those clients.