Sometimes in life you have to get a little lost before you are truly able to find your way.

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Getting Back on the Horse

I’ve been debating how to start this post for some time now. For anyone who has followed this BLOG, I’m sure it must seem as though I’ve dropped off the grid for no apparent reason, adopted a new identity and for the most part, abandoned writing. In truth, only the first part of that has been true. I definitely dropped off the grid. But there was a reason.

To explain that reason I have to summarize a bit of what is wrong about our social security (disability) system. And to do that, I have to explain much of what is right about our veteran’s disability system. When a member of the military has “disabilities, diseases, or injuries caused by or aggravated during active military service,” they are eligible to apply for a disability rating through the VA disability rating system. To put it very simply, for every disability, a vet gets a rating from 0%-100% and receives disability pay commensurate with their rating. If, for example, they have a back injury that is rated at 15%, an arm injury rated at 5% and a psychological disability rated at 20%, they have a combined disability rating of 40%. Over time those injuries often get worse, and the rating and pay increases accordingly. The key here is that the disabilities and corresponding compensation are not all or nothing. This system recognizes that injuries can (and do) affect one’s ability to work at different degrees. It does not require that someone be 100% completely incapable of doing any kind of work to receive compensation. THIS MAKES SENSE! And I don’t mean it just makes sense for the individual seeking disability pay, it makes sense for our economy! By providing supplementary income to those with disabilities WITHOUT requiring that they be completely incapacitated, we support actively working, tax-paying individuals and discourage fraud! 

Here’s the tricky part though…as disabilities increase, there are two potential end results for rating. If an individual has a combined 100% service-related disability, (because their condition will either result in premature death or incapacitate them), that person can either work or not work. Employment has no bearing on their rating or compensation. On the other hand, if gainful employment is restricted or not possible because of an individual’s service-connected disability, they are rated “IU” – individual unemployability. If someone with an IU rating becomes employed, the IU is discontinued. Check out this forum for an interesting discussion regarding 100% employable vs 100% un-employable ratings.

I should note that this discussion and my thoughts on this matter do not in ANY WAY diminish the respect I have for our service men and women. They put their lives on the line, leave their families behind and risk everything to protect our freedoms. I believe very strongly that we need to adequately compensate each and every vet for injuries sustained during active service. In many cases, it’s clear that we need to improve how we care for our vets when they come home.

I do, however, have some mixed feelings about the rating system. The IU rating makes sense. If you are 100% disabled, then it follows that you would be unable to work and that your compensation should reflect that. However, if you are 100% disabled but still employable, how is that 100% disabled?

One last note about VA disability. If a vet is qualified as disabled by the VA system, he or she can also apply for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) IN ADDITION TO their VA disability income AND have their claim expedited. I have some very mixed feelings about that, however, I’ll move on to get to my point…

This brings me to the reason that yes, I did drop off the grid for an entire year, then suddenly come back talking about skin care. Our SSDI System is broken. It is flawed, poorly designed and terribly administered. To begin with, the SSDI system does not recognize or compensate partial disability. One must be deemed 100% disabled and unable to work at any job in any capacity. The Social Security Administration defines being disabled with the following criteria:

  • You cannot do work that you did before;
  • We decide that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s); and
  • Your disability has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or to result in death.
This is what ONE year of medical records from ONE doctor looks like. Now imagine 13 years with MANY doctors....

This is what ONE year of medical records from ONE doctor looks like. Now imagine 13 years with MANY doctors….

At first glance, that seems to make sense, right? You can’t do your old job; you can’t do any other job; your condition is a long-term thing or is going to kill you. Yep, that would definitely be disabled. But what about those who are so severely limited by their health that they can’t work enough to support themselves or their families or even to qualify for health insurance? And even if someone is 100% disabled, what is required to prove it? To examine these questions, let’s explore what applying for SSDI looks like. There are forms. LOTS of forms. Medical records. Statements from doctors. Examinations.

Here’s how it typically goes. You apply. You wait 3-6 months. You get denied. You submit your first appeal, called a request for reconsideration. You wait another 3-6 months. You get denied. (If you’re lucky, you still have some means of supporting yourself and you’re not homeless…yet.) You submit your second appeal and wait (on average) one to two years to get a date to appear before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Maybe you get approved, maybe not. Approval ratings vary state to state, examiner to examiner and judge to judge. Initial claims are approved at rates of anywhere from 5% to 35% depending on the state and the claims examiner. To put this in perspective, let’s assume that 100 people apply for SSDI benefits and 100% of those denied follow up with every available appeal (not nearly this many actually do). We’ll shoot for the middle and say that about 20 individuals are actually approved and 80 are denied.

Not disabled eh? Yeah....I'm sure that ALL of my doctors are wrong about that...

Not disabled eh? Yeah….I’m sure that ALL of my doctors are wrong about that…

Approximately 10% of claims that are appealed at the reconsideration level (first appeal) are approved. Looking at our sample group, that means that 8 more people are approved (28 total, so far) and 72 are once again denied. Roughly 50% of claims appealed at the next level and presented in front of an ALJ are approved, (though that number plummets for individuals who do not have a lawyer). So 36 more individuals eventually are approved, resulting in a total of about 64 individuals.

Does this mean that barely more than half the people applying for SSDI are actually disabled and cannot work? NO!. Absolutely not. There is an enormous amount of subjectivity at every level of decision in this system because humans are making the decisions. Disability Secrets is a great site that offers some interesting insight into navigating this complicated system and improving your chances of being approved. 

If you add up all that wait time, you quickly find that getting your SSDI claim approved will likely take 2-3 years. WOW. OK, so if you really are completely disabled and cannot work and you have to wait 2-3 years to MAYBE get assistance, what happens to you during those 2-3 years?

For some, welfare (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – or TANF) is the answer. But here’s the catch – only people with children (or pregnant women) are eligible for TANF. So what happens to the single adult with no children? If, like me, they are lucky enough to have family that can support them through the SSDI claim process, they burn through their checking, savings and retirement accounts and rely on help from family. But what about those who do not have family that can support them? A lucky few live in towns/cities or counties that have assistance programs. But more often, they end up in shelters, on the streets, or dead. This is a flawed system. We have left a giant void that for many, becomes a bottomless pit that swallows them whole.

Now let’s go back and look at the (non-military) partially disabled individuals. Many people live with significant impairments but do not meet the criteria for SSDI. There is no support to make up for the fact that they cannot work full time, thus, they end up working part time and that of course, means no health insurance. Without health insurance they cannot adequately address their medical needs and likely worsen their existing conditions. In MANY cases these individuals’ health status declines to the point that they can no longer work at all. They lose jobs. Their credit tanks. They lose their homes. They end up on the streets. This is no exaggeration. I would, without question have followed precisely this path had it not been for my amazing family who has supported me through this process. But I am among the lucky few who have loved ones willing and ABLE to do so.

To be perfectly honest – knowing what I now know, experiencing what going through this system is actually like, and how LONG it takes, I would probably have done what many do…I would have started my claim a long time ago. Before I was truly unable to work. This, of course, is called Social Security Fraud.

We need to fix the SSDI system. We have a good working model of a system that recognizes that individuals who are partially incapacitated and cannot work enough to support themselves should qualify for partial assistance. The VA system, even with all of its flaws, is logical. It makes sense. It doesn’t leave people behind the way SSDI does. We also have to look at the fate of those single adults applying for SSDI, waiting years for their claim to be approved. We have to either amend our welfare system to extend it to those individuals, or create some sort of stop-gap measure to act as a safety net over that bottomless pit.

I have been waiting one year and four months since I initially submitted my claim. It included the initial application, all of appeal scrn shotthe required forms, examination by a SS doctor, and more than 13 years of medical records supporting my claim and several highly distinguished doctors unanimously affirming that I cannot, and have not been able to work for a LONG time. But I was denied at the first level. And denied at reconsideration. I have been waiting 8 months for my hearing with the ALJ and still have no date. We have submitted two requests for an expedited hearing based on “emergent conditions” (this request essentially outlines why it is imperative that I have my case heard immediately due to dire medical, insurance and financial circumstances). But still I wait.

My family has supported me financially and emotionally for the last several years. My gratitude to them is matched only by my feelings of guilt and my desire to be able to go back to work, to repay them, to live independently and productively. I have no idea if the judge that eventually hears my case will approve my claim or not. I know that my medical condition is clearly disabling and the physicians who care for me are unanimous in their testimony that my claim must be approved. I know that I am less likely to be approved because of my level of education. Those who have not completed high school are most likely to be approved. Those of us with bachelors and masters degrees (and mountains of debt!) – same disabilities, lower rates of approval (based on the assumption that we could qualify for additional types of employment). Great.

So – this is what I have been doing for the year that Lost On A Horse was silent. I have been fighting, clawing, struggling, begging – for assistance that I wish with all my heart that I did not need. I was terrified to write. Terrified that I would damn myself to denial by a system that is supposed to support people in my situation. Terrified that someone might found out that I was having cutting-edge surgery that could potentially lead to improvement in my health. Terrified that someone might find out that I was continuing to BLOG, to advocate for myself and the untold numbers of chronic pain sufferers, and use it as evidence that I could work, being completely unaware of what it takes for me to do this. That for some, typing up a post like this and inserting a few pictures might take an hour or so rather than days. But my name is attached to this BLOG. And the folks at the SSA dig. They dig deep. They even go so far as to surveil applicants or those already awarded benefits to find any clue that someone claiming to be unable to work actually can do something. Anything…because SSDI is, after all, ALL OR NOTHING.

Translation: "Don't bother - if you think coming to the office will do any more than staring at your computer, you're more of a fool than we thought!"

Translation: “Don’t bother – if you think coming to the office will do any more than staring at your computer, you’re more of a fool than we thought!”

Recent events though have persuaded me to come back. To speak up. To revive Lost On A Horse. So here I am. There is much to say, stories to tell, questions to ask, advice to share. But this is enough for today. Ok, realistically, for the last several days. I can’t just sit down at the computer and type out a post this long all in one shot, even when it’s already written on paper. A heavy note to return on, I know. But important. The last year and a half of my life has had a dramatic impact on my view of what is important, on politics, relationships, health…just about everything. So it’s time. Time to get back on the horse and share hard-earned lessons, and most importantly…HOPE.

Civil Disobedience: A River of Change in American Democracy


“We the people”

“A government for the people, by the people, and of the people”

“That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”

These are phrases by which we define our society, our beginnings, and our path forward. These are the things that define American Democracy. Upon gaining our independence from Britain, by means of civil disobedience, and, eventually, war, we chose for ourselves a system of governance that would represent the morals and provide for the needs of the governed. It is designed to be adaptable to change. In it, we constructed checks and balances to ensure that the “consent of the governed” would always be the highest law of land. The legitimacy of any (democratic) government can only be derived from the will of the people it governs. Insofar as the government ceases to represent the will of the people, it loses any and all power over the governed. But does this theory work in practice? Perhaps eventually. But as is the case with most systems, there are delays. Just as it takes time for a river to force its way through granite, it takes time and pressure for democracy to adapt when there is dissonance between the status quo and what the public conscience can no longer endure. That pressure has come in many forms. Perhaps most often, and certainly most successfully, in the form of civil disobedience.

The history of civil disobedience in the U.S. has been overwhelmingly non-violent. That is not to say though, that it has come without harm to the individuals involved. Significant consequences have been paid at every turn in the road to creating a better nation. Take, for example, the Boston Tea Party, Women’s Suffrage, the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, nearly every environmental movement – deforestation, animal rights, etc. Each of these chapters of our history trace their beginnings to the actions of those who risked the consequences of rising up to force government to follow the moral right.

In his famous work, On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.” Today we face many unendurable inefficiencies. And as history would predict, resistance and change are inevitable.

Invisible Disabilities

People in wheel chairs, or on crutches, or with an oxygen tank or seeing eye dog deal with their injuries/disabilities every day. They also deal with the responses of the people with whom they interact. These responses might vary from insulting, though well-intentioned attempts to help to cold indifference. On average, most people are considerate of the needs of people with noticeable disabilities. What happens though, when that disability cannot be seen? What about the many people who suffer daily with invisible disabilities? People with severe limitations on their activities for work, play, or simply getting through the day? If you can’t see a disability, are you likely to treat it with the same regard that you would an obvious disability? Would an employer treat the two the same? Would an insurance company? A neighbor? A family member?

Millions of people suffer with invisible disabilities…fibromyalgia, migraine, renal failure, sleep disorders, diabetes, severe depression, attention deficit disorder, or any of the many other potentially debilitating psychiatric disorders. Their limitations are real. Pain. Fatigue. Dizziness. Inability to concentrate. Sensitivity to light or sound. Chained to their medication to avoid painful or even lethal setbacks. As real as these conditions and their associated limitations are however, there still exists a resistance to fully recognize or respect their truly disabling nature. If a person with an obvious disability goes to the grocery store, or out for dinner, it is unlikely that the validity of that disability will be called into question. The same cannot necessarily be said for those who suffer with invisible disabilities, however. More often than not, when a person suffering from an invisible disability exhibits “normal behavior” many people tend to judge them, and even accuse them of faking their condition, or the extent of their limitations.

Yesterday a news story broke that could potentially end Michelle Bachmann’s 2012 presidential run. Normally I would be overjoyed to hear this news. It’s no secret that I don’t exactly love this candidate. What does Michelle Bachmann’s presidential run have to do with invisible disabilities, you ask? The story is centered around the question of whether Ms. Bachmann’s debilitating migraines could potentially render her unable to perform the duties required of a U.S. President. In the wake of this breaking news, I find myself actually identifying with this woman. A woman with whom I disagree on just about everything.

Ms. Bachmann now has, and has had, a staunch group of supporters. She also has a great number of individuals and groups opposing her. I, myself, could not fathom having this woman as president. However, my personal politics aside, this question is one of huge import, and for me, great personal significance. The story was allegedly leaked by some of Ms. Bachmann’s own staffers who had become concerned in recent months that she could, in fact, be dealing with a disability so severe that she would not be able to carry out the essential duties of the presidency. How then, has someone suffering such a severe disability managed to hide her incapacitation from her constituents for so long? The answer is not only simple, but more common than most people could ever imagine. Migraines, like so many other disorders, are invisible disabilities. From the perspective of the average observer, Michelle Bachmann, like millions of other people suffering from invisible disabilities, manages her life, and her pain, behind closed doors, quietly, in secret. She deals with hand she has been dealt, and walks out into the public with a strong face, no matter what she is feeling inside. And given the nature of this latest news story…it’s no wonder why she does so.

So where does that leave her, or the voters or the rest of us who suffer from invisible disabilities? We have laws about discrimination based on disability. But there are also protections for potential employers (in this case, the American public) to ensure that any candidate for any job must be able to adequately perform the essential, core duties of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. (“A reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or the way things are usually done that gives an individual with a disability an equal employment opportunity.” – http://www.ada.gov/). From personal experience I know all too well how invisible disabilities can affect both job performance, and the ability to secure or maintain a job.

I suffer from severe, debilitating migraines as well. I can say with frustration and honesty, that this condition has rendered me completely incapable of performing my job in the past. To boil down decades of medical history to just the relevant facts, suffice it to say that I began to experience migraines as a teenager. These painful events proceeded to worsen over the years until August, 2000, when what started out as a “normal” migraine turned into an intractable, daily headache that has not ceased for even the smallest moment. It is not anything that most people can see. I don’t have bandages or assistance of any kind, but this condition has limited me in many significant ways. I cannot drive at night, lie down, enjoy many foods on a long list of triggers, take any kind of hormonal birth control, use the computer for long periods of time, plan any activies when there is a storm coming or going (due to sensitivity to barometric pressure), plan a full day of activity without significant breaks, go to loud restaurants or bars or concerts without ear plugs, exercise for anything more than short intervals, have a candle-lit dinner.

Several years ago I found myself, after many years with my company, at home, unable to work, collecting disability benefits. First, short-term. Then long-term. Eventually I was laid off. I felt not only frustration and uncertainty about my future, but a loss of independence and a sense of defeat and hopelessness. Previously I had led a very successful career. I had been a subject matter expert in a highly competitive field; someone called upon for advice and important decisions. I had a great sense of accomplishment and competence. My medical condition however, seemed to rob me of those things. After several years off from work and a great deal of medical and emotional therapy, I returned to work. Not in my field of expertise, but in a position that allowed me to reenter the workforce, get my bearings, and build my confidence. When I applied for my current position I said nothing of my medical condition. I hid my disability and current physical ailments from my potential employer in the same manner that Michelle Bachmann, and a long list of U.S. presidents have done. In the few months since I have been working I have been forced to face the continued effects of my condition. I am certainly better now than I was years ago when I was forced to go on disability. But many of the ways I had learned to manage my condition are no longer options for me. I cannot take breaks when I need to. I cannot stay away from fluorescent lights. I cannot take certain medications when I need to. And what I feared most, that my migraines would again interfere with my ability to do my very best at work, has come to fruition. It is not only my own sense of inadequacy, but my superiors’ opinion of my abilities and my commitment to my job that are burdening me.

In addition to enduring this pain in silence, I am faced with uniformed judgment. I say uninformed, because my superiors do not know why I sometimes call in sick to work, or have to leave early, or forget things or fail to accomplish all of my tasks in a set amount of time. I could tell them. I could have told them when I interviewed. But I did not want to be judged the way that Michelle Bachmann is being questioned now; I chose to hide my ailment so that I could be judged on my merits and qualifications rather than my physical limitations. I do not claim that this silence is fair. To my employer or even to me. Perhaps they did have the right to know before they hired me. Perhaps I have the right to seek reasonable accommodation. But what might seem like easy answers become very complex when the far-reaching effects of invisible disabilities are considered. While employers shy away from saying no to a blind person, or a hearing impaired person, or a person in a wheel chair, invisible disabilities are treated quite differently. There is a great deal of judgment. There are accusations (spoken or unsaid) that the disabled person is either lying or exaggerating or even just trying to get out of certain responsibilities or seeking special treatment. Any normal activity is often seen as proof that the disability is not true…”Hey, I saw her at the movies the other night…she didn’t seem too disabled to me!”  While our societal sensitivity to visible disabilities adequately protects many visibly disabled people from these judgments, the same cannot be said of our sensitivity, or lack thereof, to invisible disabilities.  What the person commenting on the movie-goer might not have stopped to consider is the fact that perhaps she had had to wait to see that movie for a day when her pain was lower. She didn’t have the freedom to see it whenever she wanted. And while she watched she had used ear plugs and sun glasses to mitigate the effects of the light and sound in the theater. And when she went home she was in so much pain that she had to take medication that makes her feel terrible. But she goes to the movies anyway, not to be a martyr or to prove that she can, but because when you are faced with limitations, you do what you can to lead as normal a life as possible, even when there are negative consequences.

Returning to the dilemma facing Michelle Bachmann and her constituents, there is certainly a vast difference between my situation and hers. The well-being of our nation and the world does not rest on my ability to do my job. But if elected, it would rest on hers. Though she claims her migraines are not an issue, and while I would like to say that it is completely unfair to disqualify her based on her medical condition, I don’t believe it is, even with my own experience in mind, or perhaps even because of it. I know as well as anyone that this condition is not only real, but can at any time, under any circumstances render even the strongest individual incapable of rational thought, concentration, decision-making, even simple movement. And while those things are factors for most any job, they do not carry the same significance that they do for the president of the United States. In the past, Bachmann’s migraines have caused her to be absent from the Minnesota Senate for up to a week, miss multiple Hosue votes, and frequently retire to her congressional office with the lights out waiting for the attack to pass. Personal politics aside, the truth of the matter remains that if Ms. Bachmann’s condition is as severe as it has been reported, it is unlikely that she is physically capable of successfully carrying out the relentless and unforgiving responsibilities of being the president of the United States.

For me, it raises questions about how I will approach future job-seeking efforts. Perhaps I will be forthcoming about my medical condition and honest about the reasonable accomodations I will require. I will risk losing many opportunities, but perhaps find myself suffering less, and accomplishing more when the right opportunity, and the right employer come along. The same might be said for Michelle Bachmann. Politics aside, it could well be that this particular job just isn’t one that can offer the reasonable accommodations that her medical condition requires.

For the public at large, I hope this debate will open a dialogue about the unfair treatment of people with invisible disabilities. I hope that compassion will begin to replace criticism and distrust. I hope that everyone who suffers from disabilities, visible or invisible will be afforded the same respect and opportunities they deserve, and that they will be judged based solely on their merits, qualifications and skill. I hope I will live to see a day when those of us with invisible disabilities will not have to bury them behind lies to seek fair evaluation.

 

Affordable Healthcare in NH takes a Huge Hit

New Hampshire Executive Councilman Hilaire

Last Wednesday the New Hampshire Executive Council voted 3-2 against a $1.8 million contract that has allowed Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) to provide health services to low-income patients for more than 30 years. (AP/Boston Globe, June 22, 2011) The services funded by this contract include cancer and sexually transmitted disease screening; family planning/reproductive health education;  and access to contraception. The council, composed of five men, approved every other family planning contract it considered. So why not the Planned Parenthood contract?…you guessed it – because (GASP!)…they also provide abortion services! (Though no state or federal money would, or ever has funded abortions at Planned Parenthood.) When asked why the contract was voted down, Councilor Dan St. Hilaire admitted that he “supports most family planning services but opposed awarding the contract to PPNNE because the organization provides abortion services.” (National Partnership for Women and Families, Daily Report)

Most people who do not support abortion refer to themselves as “pro-life.” (more accurately called anti-choice) So I find myself somewhat perplexed given that the services funded by the contract save lives. Call me crazy, but that sounds pretty “pro-life,” no? They also prevent unwanted pregnancies and decrease the number of abortions annually. But then again, I supposed it probably does make much more sense to deny PPNNE the opportunity to save lives and prevent unwanted pregnancies because…they also  provide abortion services…even though the contract doesn’t fund any of them….just the life-saving stuff. Hmmm…

Here’s the real problem. The weight of the political debate over abortion has so far exceeded the level of honest decision making that real, life-saving, crucial services are being denied, defunded, discredited and done away with. It is a sad testimony to the state of our politics and the credibility of our leaders that time and time again health, quality of life, and even life itself are victims of weak politicians jockeying for votes. Is being against abortion really more important than supporting health and life? For three members of the NH Executive Council, apparently the answer to that question is “yes.”

So what are some of the real outcomes? Undetected cancer that will kill. Untreated/undetected sexually transmitted diseases that will spread, some that will kill. Untold numbers of additional unwanted pregnancies. Increased abortions, many that will be done in back alleys or at home, with unspeakable outcomes. Some of these will end with both fetus and mother dead. Many women and girls will not have access to contraception prescribed for health reasons not even related to birth control (yes, the pill is actually a widely used treatment for many medical conditions!) PPNNE offered the following as an example of services that may no longer be available.

“The manager of our West Lebanon Health Center was recently asked what effect the loss of this contract would have on our services. She shared a story of a patient who visited a drug store to get birth control pills, only to learn they were $100 a pack. She couldn’t afford this cost, so she came to PPNNE. We told this patient that, based on her income, we could slide her pills down to $0 but we would take any donation she could give us. The patient pulled out a handful of change and counted out $1.37 in coins and said, “It’s not much, but I want you to have it.”

I said these services MAY no longer be available…the Council is being petitioned to reconsider their decision. In addition, PPNNE is seeking donations. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible gift to PPNNE’s Annual Fund, click here. If you can donate, donate. If you can’t afford to donate, but wish to voice your opinion to the Council, please call, fax, email, or visit them!  With enough support, the residents of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine will continue to have access to affordable, critically important health services.

New Hampshire Executive Council
107 North Main Street
State House, Room 207
Concord, NH 03301

Phone: 603/271-3632               E-mail: gcweb@nh.gov

Fax: 603/271-3633                   Web site: www.nh.gov/council

REPUBLICANS vote down REPUBLICAN budget plan!

Man, the list of things to blog about just keeps getting longer as issues like last Friday’s vote on the Republican budget plan come to my attention…too good to resist. First, you should read this article. But in a nutshell, here’s what it will tell you. The Republican Study Committee’s alternative budget plan was up for a vote in the House. In a brilliant move, the House Democrats decided to go against the status quo. This would not just be another bipartisan vote that led to more bickering across the aisle about who has the better plan and who has America’s interests at heart yaddy yaddy ya. No, no…our Democratic friends in the House decided to see how committed to their plan the Republicans actually were! So rather than voting “nay” they voted “present.” What does this mean? Well, in the house, bills pass by a simple majority. But the Democrats took themselves out of the equation all together leaving the Republicans alone to decide if their plan should pass! BRILLIANT! The outcome should have been a gimme for Republicans. But as it turns out…not so many Republicans support the republican agenda as one might think! When all was said and done, the plan went down by a small margin, 119-136. A full 172 Democrats voted “present.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI)

So what does this mean? On April 9, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave the Weekly Republican Address. He discussed the Republican’s budget plan, which as been called the “Path to Prosperity”, which they claim will “spur private-sector job growth, stop Washington from spending money it doesn’t have, and lift the crushing burden of debt that threatens our future.” In this address, Representative Ryan stated that “Washington has not been telling you the truth about the magnitude of problems we are facing,” and that “each day that congress fails to act, the government takes one step closer to breaking its promise to current retirees.” That may well be true, but I must ask, Chairman, why then, when given an open opportunity from Democrats, didn’t you act? Why didn’t you save us from being one step closer to breaking those promises?

He also stated that “Economists agree that advancing a credible solution to the (debt) crisis will begin to restore confidence and create better conditions for job creation.” Huh. Soooo…I guess the “Path to Prosperity” then isn’t that “credible solution” after all? Ryan went on to say that “Our budget cuts 6.2 billion dollars of spending from the President’s budget over the next 10 years. This keeps government spending as a share of the economy consistent with the historical average of twenty percent so that individuals and the economy can be free…it keeps borrowing in check and puts us on the path to balance.” But as it turns out, Chairman Ryan, you don’t really think this plan does that, do you? Or, at the very least, not enough Republicans, and certainly not enough members of the House as a whole do, or you’d have passed it.

Republicans had a chance, all by themselves, to stand up for what they say they believe in, to pass what they say is the “Path to Prosperity” and yet…they didn’t. When Chairman Ryan criticized President Obama and the Democrats for putting progress behind campaigning, and said during his address that “It is time for officials in Washington to stop acting like politicians and start acting like leaders,” I have to wonder, who in the world was he referring to? His party? Certainly not. It looks a whole lot more like the Republicans wanted to propose a bill that countered the Dems, made the Republicans look like the party that was going to save America, but all along were relying on the good sense of the Democrats in congress to keep that budget from ever seeing the light of day. Well last Friday House Democrats shone the light on the Republicans. And they scurried right into the shadows, tails between their legs. Perhaps now, under this new, brighter light of scrutiny, our elected officials can take one step closer to actually working together to create a budget plan that has more to do with what works for America and less to do with what they think will get them reelected.  Here’s hoping…

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Missouri Sacrifices Animal and Voter Rights

Missouri is the nation’s leader in cruel, inhumane, unregulated puppy mill operations. Annually they supply pet stores with more puppies than any other state – by far. Recently there seemed to have been a glimmer of hope on the horizon for millions of pups in Missouri. Last November voters in Missouri passed the ASPCA-supported Prop B – The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act (PMCPA). But this past Wednesday, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 85-71 in favor of Senate Bill 113, rejecting the will of the state’s voters and eliminating all of the newly established humane improvements outlined in the PMPCA! Not only is this a terrifying move in the wrong direction, but perhaps even more scary, an absolutely grotesque violation of the democratic process.

Missouri Attorney General Koster at a puppy mill raid

Unless Missouri Governor, Jay Nixon, vetoes it, Senate Bill 113 will become state law. If passed, this bill will not only do away with all of the provisions of the PMPCA such as increased cage sizes, a ban on wire flooring and a restriction on the frequency of breeding, but it will actually LESSEN the already deplorable “standards” – if you can even call them that, which currently govern commercial breeding. Not only will these awful effects be suffered by dogs in Missouri, but the precedent that this sets for many other states currently considering commercial breeding reform will have a deep and lasting influence.

So what can you do? Please reach out to every single person you know in Missouri and urge them to CALL Governor Nixon to voice their deep concern over this issue and ask him to veto SB 113. If you live in Missouri, get on the phone fast! Start a petition and send it in ASAP! Do whatever you can to make it clear to Governor Nixon that Missourians have spoken. They do not support animal cruelty and that their elected officials have a duty to act according to their constituents’ desires…not their own. Share this post via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or any other way you can.

For more details on what this bill will mean for dogs in Missouri, please visit the ASPCA Web site or the following article from ZOE Nature.

This injustice will not just be felt by the dogs born in puppy mills, but by every participant in our democratic system whose vote SHOULD matter. Thanks for taking a few minutes to make a huge difference!

Breaking news!…your action is needed NOW!

On the heels of today’s earlier post about some positive developments for wolves in the U.S. comes heart-breaking news from Washington and several state governments. Please read the following from Defenders of Wildlife:

“First, the leadership of the House and Senate and the President brokered a budget deal that sold out wolves by including a provision that would eliminate protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, weakening the Endangered Species Act and leaving these magnificent animals with little safety net against the threat of widespread killing.

Next, our settlement agreement in the ongoing fight over wolf management was rejected by a federal court – blocking a collaborative path forward that could have helped ensure that science, not politics, dictated decisions on wolf management.

Meanwhile, state legislatures in the Northern Rockies continue to prove why state management of wolves is a cause for concern. For example, the Idaho legislature has passed a bill authorizing the governor to declare a state of emergency over the presence of wolves and extremists in that state are calling for law enforcement to find and kill these amazing animals.”

Please take action now by sending a message to western governors urging them to prevent an all-out slaughter of a species that has fought so hard to stay alive.

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