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Dr. Michael Forster

What about the Republican tax bill? And how about Mississippi’s “no apology” spiral down?

Just in case you’re wondering, social workers vehemently oppose the “Tax Cut and Jobs Act” that Republicans are tying to ram though Congress.  An a NASW advocacy advisory succinctly puts it, the bill is nothing but a “windfall for the super-rich” which will set up “decimating safety-net programs that serve low-income elderly, children and families.”

The tax bill, with President Trump’s blessing, has already sailed through the House of Representatives, with the Senate currently mulling it over.  Cuts in taxes for the rich and cuts in services to ordinary folks go hand in hand.  It’s no accident, but deliberate strategy aimed at realizing the class dreams of an elite that never reconciled with New Deal and Great Society programs, and now see an opportunity to kill them off once and for all.

Mississippi’s leadership is clearly on board with this reactionary agenda.  In case you missed it, the most important news item of the day is that citizens can expect more reductions in public agency funding in 2018 based on leaders’ budget recommendations – cuts to education, cuts to health and mental health, cuts to other social services.  The “stagnant economy” gets the blame, but as Speaker of the House Philip Gunn said, “We don’t apologize…,” even though tax cuts for corporations are at least partly to blame for anemic state revenues.  Lt. Governor Tate Reeves was characteristically more belligerent than Gunn – “If you define the success of our state by how much money our government spends, then you ain’t gonna be happy with this budget recommendation.”

Well, Messrs. Gunn and Reeeves, social workers sure as hell aren’t happy – Not because they equate spending with success, but because they do equate it with the state taking care of its people – all its people, not just the well-heeled and the politically powerful.

Dr. Michael Forster

Obsession with killing Obamacare marries lust for tax cuts for the wealthy

Republicans are nothing if not persistent.  Still stinging from defeat of their multiple attempts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans have hatched a new strategy – repeal the mandate to buy insurance under the auspices of tax “reform.”

In fact, the maneuver promises a “two-fer” payoff – Starve Obamacare of enrollees (contrary to Trumpist predictions, enrollment numbers are way up, not down) and free up billions of dollars in federal subsidies to help finance mega-tax giveaways to corporations and the 1%.  Woo-hoo!  That’s what the right calls a genuine “win-win.”

There are at least two fat flies in this ointment, however.  First, you can’t repeal the individual mandate without roiling the insurance markets, which will eventually – and probably sooner rather than later – jack up everyone’s premiums, as the young and healthy pass on purchasing policies, leaving behind a higher concentration of less healthy consumers to cover.  Second, how long will it take before the broad public figures out that the “biggest middle-class tax cut in history” is a ginormous lie, benefiting big corporations and the super-rich at their expense?  I’m guessing not too long.

Comeuppance at the ballot box won’t follow long behind, perhaps as early as 2018, for sure by 2020.

Dr. Michael Forster

No place celebrates community like New Orleans

The passing of New Orleans rock ‘n roll icon Fats Domino was the occasion for this captivating reflection by MSW student Shannon Smith on the role of joyful celebration in cultivating and sustaining community.  It deserves wider viewing than by my eyes only.

“Walking to New Orleans…”  by Shannon Smith

      I’ve been meaning to acknowledge this newsworthy event for a couple weeks now, but –
ya’know… grad school! In fact, grad school is the unfortunate (yet, very fortunate) reason for
my persistent lonesomeness for home. Hearing of Fats Domino’s passing after a long 89 years
of well-lived life, increased my nostalgia for everything New Orleans. I miss my city – the good,
bad and the ugly. New Orleans is the most culturally beautiful city on the planet (in my
opinion), with the unique trait of having a perpetually ugly underbelly that only adds to her
radiance. The mysterious grittiness is part of the Big Easy essence, so to speak. Some people
love it, some hate it.
      Some folks stick around even though they can leave, and some folks are just waiting for
their chance to flee. Despite fame and fortune, Fats chose to stay in his beloved home, and New
Orleanians are forever grateful. One look at footage from his memorial second line tells the tale
of the mark the man and his music left on the hearts of the people who loved him. Nothing but
joy and celebration. No division, no violence, no discrimination, no fear – only togetherness,
unity.  Beautiful sight to behold for a city normally wracked with racial divide and streets of
      I’ve seen this radiance and solidarity shine throughout the city on a couple of relatively
recent shared occasions – one being the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the other after the
ginormous Super Bowl win. One a tragedy and one a victory, both powerful enough to bring
awareness to the city’s citizens that we are ONE.  Just as in the passing of Fats Domino…a
solemn occasion to come together to celebrate the gift that we received from having him as one
of our OWN.
      Makes me feel like walking, and Fats said it best….
I’ve got no time for talkin’
I’ve got to keep a-walkin’
New Orleans is my home
That’s the reason why I’m goin’
Yes, I’m walkin’ to New Orleans
Shannon Smith
News Item #5
Fats Domino second line in New Orleans: Fitting tribute for a founding father of rock ‘n’ roll
Dr. Michael Forster

Don’t count on reason (or even arithmetic) to prevail in “tax reform”

President Trump has time and again promised “massive” tax cuts, and is demanding that Congress come up with a plan to deliver pronto.  Republicans generally love tax cuts anyway, and since they’ve so far failed to push through any major legislation (the greatest debacle being failure to kill Obamacare), major “tax reform” favoring corporations and the 1% would appear to be a sure bet.

But wait, say opponents of Trump and his Republican sycophants.  Simple arithmetic will bedevil the tax slashers, for the obvious reason that reducing taxes will drive up an already ballooning national deficit and debt burden still further.  And if there’s anything that Republicans hate more than high taxes, it’s growing the deficit.  Trying to bypass this sticky wicket by eliminating popular federal tax deductions (aka “loopholes”) such as state taxes and mortgage payments is a political dead end, since the back home constituency voter backlash would prove unbearable.

So is the Republican majority again rushing toward an epic failure to deliver on a big promise?  Don’t count on it.  Here’s my prediction – Trump and the Republicans will pretend to be fret mightily over deficits, but will soothe the nation’s anxieties with a heaping dose of voodoo economics.  You know the tune: when big tax cuts go into effect, the economy will start booming in no time, galloping along at a 4, 5, or 6% growth rate, and hell, who knows, the federal treasury will probably be soon running a surplus….  Then, when the economic boom and the new tax revenues don’t materialize, debt and deficits will return to the political foreground with a vengeance, and the 99% will be in for the next big round of austerity measures – most likely “reform” of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, lingering vestiges of the New Deal and the Great Society that we can no longer “afford” in their current forms.

Dr. Michael Forster

MSW student Anderson reflects on travesty of jeopardizing CHIP funding

This blog entry is by Moira Anderson, one of our many fine MSW students attending the Southern Miss Gulf Park program.  

Lapse in Federal Funding Imperils Children’s Health Coverage

Reading this headline was disappointing to me, if not anticipated. On September 30, 2017, Congress let funding lapse for CHIP, the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program. CHIP is a federally funded program which helps lower and middle-income families who earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid. This program covers 9 million children across our nation. CHIP covers mostly children up to age 19. In nineteen states CHIP covers pregnant women as well. Approximately 370,000 pregnant women are covered each year through the program. Families who improve their lives and move out of Medicaid have used CHIP as an affordable option to ensure health coverage for their children.

CHIP is mostly paid for by federal funds, although state funds are also used. Authorization for spending has expired, however states are still able to continue their programs temporarily, using their unspent federal funds. Unfortunately, some states anticipate running out of funding by the end of 2017.

Historically, CHIPS has been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. However, funding renewal has not gotten priority from Republican leaders who have been focusing on working to replace the Affordable Care Act, and on overhauling the Medicaid program.

Since this headline was published, the Finance Committee has taken an important step toward extending funding for CHIP. Currently the program is authorized through October 1, 2019. However, further legislative action is needed in order to reauthorize funding.

When considering how many families, children and pregnant women would lose their healthcare without this program, the impact of not refunding it could be devastating. What frequently astounds me is that the people who want to cut health insurance assistance consider healthcare an unnecessary federal expense. Yet, lack of healthcare is probably exceedingly more expensive than providing the assistance in the first place.

I equate health with wealth. I see it as an incredible resource in myself, my family, my community and my nation.  If people lose healthcare plans, local hospitals will be stressed, as emergency rooms fill with people who cannot pay their bills. Economically speaking, our country will bear the burden. Families will be stressed, afraid to take their children to the doctor because they cannot pay for it. Social service agencies will be overwhelmed with people needing additional services. Stress and mental health challenges will be exacerbated when communities cannot provide medical care for vulnerable individuals.

The ripple effect, a decision like defunding CHIP has will not only affect people who directly lose their healthcare plans. Economically, the disaster is clear. However, I always, also imagine the impact on our hearts. Being a cold, heartless nation that doesn’t take care of its sick children creates an emotional deficit which is difficult to bear. It has come to my attention lately that as social workers, we have a duty to protest, organize, vote, inspire, as well as change the policies and legislation that puts vulnerable and minority people and communities at risk.

An article I read by columnist Parker J. Palmer states, “In times of deep darkness we not only need light—we need to be the light for one another. There’s the light of courage to walk the path no matter who says, ‘Stop!’ No one of us can provide all the light we need. But every one of us can shed some kind of light.”