Dr. Michael Forster

North Korean flare-up is a great gift to Trump

Forget Russian collusion with the Trump election campaign.  The question we should ask now is whether North Korean “madman” Kim Jong-un is colluding with the tweeter-in-chief to distract us from the mess President Trump is making of what’s left of our democracy.

I’m not serious about collusion, of course.  But what president under pressure, let alone this one (“hit me, and I’ll hit you back harder”), wouldn’t welcome the narrative-shifting shock of an international crisis?  And what better crisis than the threat of war, and nuclear war no less – “fire and fury like the world has never seen”?  Say what you will about the president’s political immaturity, planetary immolation has a unique capacity to push lesser matters (the Mueller investigation, climate disruption, the health care debacle, the deregulation apocalypse underway throughout the executive branch…) from the focal foreground with blinding speed.

He probably won’t thank you, but you deserve a lot of credit, Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim!  Talk about changing the conversation!

Dr. Michael Forster

Can Trump handle the truth of global warming?

Well, the fat’s in the fire, you might say.  The Congress-mandated National Climate Assessment report – a copy of which was obtained and just released by the New York Times – leaves little doubt that the planet’s been on a steadily rising burn for decades now, largely due to human action, notably the release of heat-trapping gases through uncontrolled use of fossil fuels.

What makes the report unique is that it’s the first major government climate study to emerge under the Trump administration.  The big question is: Will our compulsively and belligerently mendacious president and his supporters try to doctor, if not suppress outright, the report?  Based on White House actions to date (e.g. stripping all mention of climate change from websites, arbitrarily reassigning government scientists who speak out), the odds are that they will.

If in fact they do, everyone with the slightest smidgen of regard for reality and scientifically validated verity – but especially university faculty and students, ostensibly committed above all else to the pursuit of truth in service to life – should be outraged to the point of strong and unrelenting action against a leadership (and unfortunately that’s not Trump alone, friends) with, it seems, a planetary death wish.

Dr. Michael Forster

Students recognize public investment as key to community

Yesterday I wrapped up a graduate course in community development and social planning.  The closing assignment for each student was a 10-page paper envisioning a physical community that reflects social work values and commitments.

The range of community concepts was, predictably, wide – from smallish Spartan rural enclaves to upscale high-density metropolitan neighborhoods.  Yet there was a remarkable consistency in the priority concerns identified for any successful and sustainable community, with a common theme that public investment is essential to ensuring quality of life.

Where should public investment flow? Topping the list – Health care, universally available to all.  Education, free, unlimited, and continuous.  Economic development that features small businesses, applies smart regulation to big ones, and fosters social capital formation (i.e. bonds of trust and solidarity).  Physical infrastructure – roads and bridges, yes, but also public works (e.g. parks and plazas) and public beautification.

Without serious and steady investment in these areas, say our future social work leaders, the future is bleak.  If only our elected state and national leaders were blessed with the same insight.

Dr. Michael Forster

Apparently no stopping ACA haters

The zombie Obamacare haters just won’t stop coming, no matter how many times they die.  Here’s what’s driving this malicious health care “reform” effort: A president who by turns seems incompetent beyond belief, just plain evil, and/or on a steady slide toward dementia; and a majority Republican Senate, walking on the thinnest legislative razor’s edge imaginable (“Hey, Mr. V.P., we need you to break another tie vote!”), evidently unconcerned that the vast majority of Americans unequivocally reject what they’re trying to do – i.e. strip tens of millions of Americans of health care insurance coverage.  Obamacare may be deeply flawed (by design it was largely a giveaway to the insurance industry, in my view), but it’s a damned sight better than what the political right is peddling.

In case you missed it: Mississippi senators Cochran and Wicker, supposedly “representing” some of the poorest and most health-compromised people in the USA, both voted Tuesday night for an amendment to repeal the Affordable Care Act with nothing (except ensuing market chaos) to replace it with.  Oh my, we desperately need new leadership, social workers.

Dr. Michael Forster

It’s time for single-payer universal health care coverage

Social workers – Isn’t it time to recognize that a single-payer universal-coverage health care system is the way to go?  Republicans were right to argue that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was and remains a deeply flawed approach to addressing Americans’ health needs. But they were badly off the mark in thinking – as their recent legislative debacle amply demonstrated – that the ACA could be rapidly “repealed and replaced” with something palatable to the American public.

We seem to have turned a big corner on accepting the single payer concept.  In part due to the robust Sanders run for the presidential nomination, in part because of sheer Republican stupidity in trying to strip millions of insurance coverage, while simultaneously capping Medicaid funding and handing the wealthy a handsome tax cut, single-payer is presently enjoying a surge in popularity.  Articles acknowledging its feasibly are popping up with increasing frequency in unlikely places, including The Atlantic Monthly and Harvard Business Review.

A pro-single-payer position will not be popular with Mississippi’s political leadership.  Indeed, no public program perceived to benefit the “undeserving” is likely to ever gain their support.  But that is of minor consequence.  Stereotypes aside, our profession’s commitment is to justice, not mealy-mouthed “niceness.”  Ethically, single-payer universal coverage is far more just than the mess of a pseudo-system that we have now; pragmatically, it is the way of the future.  It’s high time we take a firm stance on the right side of history.