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Wolf (D) beating the pants off of Corbett (R) here in PA

Woah, this looks like it might be a blowout here in PA.  With about 11% of the votes counted, Wolf leads Corbett by 65.27% to 34.73%.

I wasn’t here when Corbett was elected but I really didn’t like his “solution” to the Medicaid expansion.  He turned it down.  Then, when he saw the end of his political career, he proposed an alternative to Medicaid.  It was something like privatized Medicaid but with premiums.  Ok, I could *almost* live with that but what made it unpalatable was the suggestion that those of us who are still having problems finding employment and health care were somehow lacking initiative and essential skills.  So, under the Corbett plan, I would probably have to sign up for courses in, what, exactly?  How to use a computer?  How to use a word processing application?

See, this is why people vote for Republicans.  They have strange ideas about what is really going on in the world.

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Stuff I learned today

So, I visited a resumé guru today because I can’t get through the HR filters of most sites and can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong.  I’ve tried matching my keywords and writing the damn thing over and over and OVER again to meet the most demanding filter but, no go.  Anyway, the guru worked it out, or so he assures me. It turns out I have to apply some sleight of hand. Think of it as CV SEO.  I think I’ve got it now.  What a royal pain in the ass, as if spending a couple of hours per application wasn’t painful enough.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned today:

1.) There really is such a thing as ageism.  It’s not just your imagination.  It’s probably due to some cocky young thing thinking you don’t know how to use technology, as if your diligence in filling out the ridiculous, lengthy, everything but your bloodtype online form wasn’t proof to the contrary.  If you’re over 45, you’re probably too old. Thank you New York Times.

2.) In the last three years (hmmm, let’s pause to meditate on the significance of three years, shall we?), an increasing number of employers have been hiring temp positions and not direct to position employees.  Sometimes, these temp positions turnover to permanent positions, but consider that first year a very long audition- without benefits.  And there’s no guarantee.  So, the assignment can end at any time.  Depending.  On what?  No idea.

3.) Obamacare is too damn expensive.  This came out of the blue.  Yup.  And it makes perfect sense.  If you are employed in this economy in a temp position and you have to carry the weight of that premium without a subsidy (because you make too much for Medicaid or live in a Medicaid expansionless state, but make too little for a subsidy because you are a lowly temp worker), it’s just too expensive.  You will spend substantially more of your paycheck than the blessed employee with the employer coverage.  But you’re less likely to become blessed because see #2 above.  I am now beginning to wonder what the purpose of Obamacare was.  Because if it is just a matter of getting kids covered who had  serious pre-existing conditions, there was SCHIP and Medicaid before Obamacare. Soooo…?  Bueller?

Malice or stupidity?  Before the administration gave a pass to the employer mandate, I was thinking “stupidity”.  Now, I’m not so sure.  Let’s just say there was a loophole big enough to drive a train through.

The guru says the tweaks should be enough to get me through.  I remain optimistic because, frankly, what is the alternative?  I don’t think I can sell my body at this point, even if I wanted to.  Thank goodness for the part time work and the no-mortgage thingy.  Still, no fun at all.  And I may live to be 92, which troubles me greatly.  Who’s going to hire me when I’m in my 90s?  Come to think of it, there will likely be a LOT of tail end boomers in our 90s, shlepping around the office, retail outlets and construction sites.  That should be interesting.

Stay tuned.

 

 

Krugman and I differ on Obamacare

This is sad.  I really like Paul.  We agree on so many things.  He’s one of the few people who is getting a clue about the myth of structural unemployment.

But with Obamacare, he’s hopeless.

I think it has to do with his own social isolation.  He lives in Princeton surrounded by some of the most successful individuals in the world.  Of course, all around him is the detritus of 6 years of dismantling of the R&D industry.  He only has to cross Route 1 to visit the now shuttered lab where I worked for 15 years. Some of the smartest people I know are having a really hard time figuring out what just happened to them.  But it’s unlikely that Krugman knows many of them, or any of the less accomplished people I know.

Here’s the part of Paul’s latest Conscience of a Liberal post on Obamacare that I resent most:

The current state of public opinion on health reform is really peculiar. If you’ve been following the issue at all closely, you know that the Affordable Care Act is one of the great comeback stories of public policy: after a terrible start, it has dramatically exceeded expectations. But hardly anyone seems to know that.

It’s easy to understand how that happens for Fox-watchers and Rush-listeners, who are fed a steady diet of supposed Obamacare disaster stories.

Um, I HATE Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.  I consider them to be on the same par as pneumonic plague.  They spread misinformation quickly and the effect is always malignant.  I don’t watch cable news of any kind and I don’t listen to Rush.  So, where could I have possibly gotten the crazy idea that Obamacare is a disaster waiting to happen??

Maybe it’s from my own data and observations.  Maybe it’s because the plans are not so great for the price.  Maybe it’s because some of us could afford the lousy premiums if we could get a subsidy but our incomes are too low to qualify (could someone please explain how that even makes sense??).  Maybe it’s the persistent feeling that Obamacare is leading to a less secure job market.  Maybe it’s because for some of us, it’s a choice between cashing in some of our IRA and facing a steep tax penalty to pay for our premiums or being forced into Medicaid where the state may collect our estates from our heirs when we are dead.  There are a million reasons why Obamacare might not be working so well for the rest of us, 40 million approximately.  If Obamacare is only reaching 7 million new subscribers, doesn’t that leave most of the 47 million uninsured still uninsured?

Here’s my take on Obamacare: It’s full of poison pills.  There’s just enough in it to help people with pre-existing conditions and some self-employed people to thrill the cockles of the liberal’s heart.  For everyone else, cost controls are not in place, there are no mechanisms to force competing carriers in a local market to cooperate with each other leaving the unsuspecting facing steep out of network costs, the unemployed are still mostly not covered (and they can’t afford the premiums anyway without a subsidy) and to get any kind of public option, aka Medicaid, you have to give up nearly everything you own and have spent your whole life working for.

This is not a good plan, Paul.  Most people do not live in Princeton or NYC.  They live ordinary lives with ordinary wages and this plan seems to have bypassed many of them.  Obamacare was cobbled together by a chief executive who seemed to want to wag his penis around instead of actually pushing for a well crafted piece of legislation.  Then it was severely compromised by Congress, first by Republicans who are malignant narcissists and then by Democrats who repeatedly sold out their constituents in a desperate attempt to prop up a guy who was not ready to be president.  Why the push to ram this extremely flawed piece of legislation through so quickly?  Why was it more important to save Obama’s ass than to ask him to do a good job?  Why aren’t enough liberals asking those questions?

Don’t insult us, Paul, especially those of us who are die-hard liberals who find the right wing utterly repugnant.  It’s not going to make Obamacare better and won’t help the party.  It reminds me of the days when anyone who saw through Obama in 2008 was called a racist.  It’s not fair and it’s beneath you.

They have failed us.

Have you read this article on the NYTimes front page?  Wait, before you do, make sure you have Kleenex or can control your outrage.

This is completely unacceptable.  Our healthcare system in America in 2013 reminds me of the stories that my grandfather told me about the pesthouse his mother died in back in 1920.

There is simply no good excuse to treat anybody this badly.  If you are a Republican supporting this level of cruelty and heartlessness, you should be ashamed to call yourself a Christian.  People are dying from untreated illnesses they couldn’t afford to pay for before Obamacare and because of Obamacare, they will have no access to some of the only charity hospitals that will still accept them.

All because some toilet paper magnates would rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars paying bullies to spread lies and deception than pay their damn taxes.

It’s horrible.

And people with company paid health insurance shouldn’t get comfy.  The bad guys have already done away with pensions.  It’s only a matter of time before the medical benefits face the music.

You do not want to end up like the patients in this article.

Saturday: Republicans have ALWAYS Hated Medicare

So, the Republicans have voted to end Medicare as we know it and throw our parents and ourselves to the mercy of the insurance market with vouchers.  The new budget bill the House Republicans passed yesterday cuts trillions of dollars of support for poor and working families while enriching the already rich even more.  It’s hard to look at recent decades elections maps and not notice that the bulk of the Republican strong hold is still located in the poorest, most rural and, by far, the most southern states.  It’s almost as if the south never gave up its taste for cheap, exploitable labor.  It’s still fighting the Civil War using modern tactics.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that.  Lyndon Johnson was from Texas and he made it his goal to introduce the Great Society in order to eliminate poverty in our lifetime.  Lyndon Johnson was a schoolteacher before he became a politician.  He taught children of Mexican workers and this experience seems to have shaped his worldview and taught him compassion:

I shall never forget the faces of the boys and the girls in that little Welhausen Mexican School, and I remember even yet the pain of realizing and knowing then that college was closed to practically every one of those children because they were too poor. And I think it was then that I made up my mind that this nation could never rest while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.”

When he became president, he took up JFK’s New Frontier programs that had previously languished in Congress.  Some of the initiatives of the New Frontier were Medicare and Medicaid.  They couldn’t get through the impasse of Republicans in Congress who were supported by money from the American Medical Association.  Let’s think about that for a minute.  It was doctors who didn’t want Medicare.  Why does this sound so familiar?  In the recent healthcare reform debates, we’ve heard a lot about controlling costs and determining which health care procedures have the best outcomes but the vast majority of the efforts seem to be directed at getting consumers to pay more in insurance costs, to accept fewer services for their insurance dollar for guaranteed coverage and to pay for treatment out of pocket.  But who benefits from more dollars for fewer services?

Medicare had a much easier road to passage after the 1964 Democratic landslide in Congress.  Many more liberal Democrats were elected to office and the number of Republicans was reduced to under 1/3 of the total number of representatives.  Medicare, Medicaid, housing and educational funding were passed without Republican help, or, more importantly, interference.  For a historical perspective, listen to this podcast from Witness (BBC) on the Birth of the Great Society and Medicare.  It’s only 10 minutes long and you will get a clearer sense of what we’re up against.

Now, a lot of people will get their backs up about labeling Republicans.  Democrats can be just as bad.  Yep.  There is no doubt in my mind that there are a lot of Democrats in Congress elected from very conservative districts who don’t really embrace Democratic values much less liberal ones.  But if the country wants to keep their social safety net programs intact, their civil rights protected and give their children a fighting chance in terms of education and a more equal society, it has to get rid of as many Republicans as possible and replace them with politicians who are more liberal.  They don’t have to be Democrats.  They just have to be proponents of a Greater Society.  We should have learned lessons from our past.  We know that endless wars can drain our economy. We know that welfare can destroy initiative, demoralize and cement generations of families in poverty.  But having no social safety net can do the same thing and the effects will become much more noticeable as time goes on.  Crime will increase, our society will be less well-educated, education and opportunity will become more dependent on who you know, not what you know.  We will all get a little bit closer to the poor migrant worker, never able to count on a stable paycheck or help during economic or health care emergencies.

Republicans seem to want a feudal kind of society back.  Landowner and serf.  Sixteen tons.  This is nothing new.  They’ve been at this for 50 years.  The question is, what have we learned from this?  More importantly, how do we get the country to turn away from the noise machine that keeps pushing its buttons on gay marriage and abortion and get it to concentrate its efforts on saving itself?  Democrats missed opportunities since 2006 to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine and strengthen Net Neutrality.  Failure to do this will result in fewer outlets for alternative viewpoints.  I have to wonder why Democrats have deliberately hobbled themselves like this.  Is it malice or stupidity?  Are they so afraid of hostile public comment, ginned up by Republican astroturf campaigns, that they are paralyzed into inaction?  Is Al Franken political poison?  Isn’t this a vicious cycle?  If so, we need to replace these Democrats with some loose cannons of our own.  Where are the Rand Pauls and Paul Ryans of the left?

No matter what happens in the next year, the blame falls on both Republicans and Democrats.  Republicans for being the snakes we pick up at the side of the road, knowing what they are; Democrats for yielding to big money instead of working on great efforts.  We shouldn’t let ourselves be distracted from the fact that this issue is played out before a big election.  Medicare has become politicized by both parties for their own gains.  I don’t appreciate having Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security dangled in front of the American people with snapping crocodiles waiting to consume them and if that’s what the Obama campaign is planning, they’d better make damn sure they haven’t miscalculated. The “smart compromise” move would be to not negotiate with Republicans on Medicare.  Period.  Or Social Security or Medicaid or any other social safety net program.  Tell them you’ll smartly compromise when the rich starts paying its fair share, the bankers return all of our money and unemployment is down to 3%.  Then we’ll talk.  Frankly, I don’t trust Obama or his organization.  He’s no JFK, LBJ or FDR.  He’s an Obamaist.  That’s the sum total of his political philosophy.  You lefties know this going in.  Your eyes are open.  He’s going to try to please all of the data mined to death voter blocs on his electoral checklist.  There will be no vision, no program.  It will be all about HIM.  How many votes can he get here and there to put him ever so slightly over the top.  Expect a lot of compromising, very little of it smart.

I’ve worked since I was 17, faithfully putting away my (now substantial) FICA and Medicare taxes and now that I no longer have a job and may never get one that pays as well as the one I lost, I am going to expect that my decades of deferred wages get paid to me as promised.  To ask me to accept anything less is to ask me to accept fraud.  I won’t have it.  If the projected costs are too high based on the past several years GDP, it would have been better to do the hard work of passing a decent jobs program, ending the unnecessary war in Iraq and taxing the rich.  Don’t ask me to make long term sacrifices for some stupid short term gain that spares me a few measley cents on the dollar but rewards the rich lavishly.  I see clearly what is going on and I’m not buying it.

Democrats, take notice.

A little more:  I started free associating (without drugs) on the concept of the company store in 16 Tons and came across this wikipedia entry for the truck system:

truck system is an arrangement in which employees are paid in commodities or some currency substitute (referred to as scrip), rather than with standard money. This limits employees’ ability to choose how to spend their earnings—generally to the benefit of the employer. As an example, scrip might be usable only for the purchase of goods at a “company store” where prices are set artificially high.

Bear with me for a sec.  It seems to me that offering seniors vouchers that must be spent on private insurance policies and not providing access to something like a public option like the one Paul Krugman is suggesting is a lot like the truck system.  What makes it more outrageous is that it’s with our taxdollars that we have earned.  So, to recap, we labor all our lives, deferring our wages for Medicare and Social Security. Then, when we need to use it, to recoup our wages compounded by millions of other taxpayers, we are issued “scrip” instead that can only be used at a “company” insurance store where the company sets the rates and can set them artificially high to guarantee themselves a profit at taxpayer expense.

We outlawed the truck system in the 20th century but I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of seniors have heard of it from their parents.  It was despised.  Republicans want to bring a form of it back.  Anybody who votes for a politician who wants to “smart compromise” on this plan should have their heads examined.

By request: Unemployment Chronicles

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(Photo source, Darth Dragon on Flickr)

When I wrote that I was laid off for the second time in 3 months here, Laurie recommended the following:

Laurie, on January 24th, 2009 at 4:30 am Said:

SM plz keep us posted. If you can, do an unemployed diary. You know, where you have to go, what forms you have to fill in, how long you have to wait to get food stamps. What food stamps look like, what kind of food you get for them-can you get organic? How long the line is etc etc

I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to write about this.  Being unemployed and having to ask for help to feed your family because you can’t find a job is demoralizing and embarrassing.  I’ve worked my ass off all my life, from working as a cafeteria clerk serving food at a hospital, cleaning offices, to paying my dues in the marketing advertising world, then becoming the first female and Latina COO of a small marketing firm, to then quitting because I was overworked (12-14 hour days, 6, sometimes 7 days a week) and not get overtime (and figured I could make the same amount of money and try to at least participate more in my daughter’s life) to then enjoying the luxury of freelancing – and then as of two years ago… SPLAT…  living off the nest egg, working whatever project came ever other month, to then working minimum wage PT jobs while the next big project comes, to being laid off completely with no new project in sight.  And no nest egg.  It royally sucks.

I know I could’ve done it better.  I coulda would shoulda… but I believed in that American dream of entrepenurialship and ultimately got f__cked while getting there.  I’m not a homeowner.  I’m a single mom and  I don’t live excessively out of my means.  I learned to live modestly according to my income to cover the bills & make sure no matter what the fridge has food, rent was paid on time, utilities were paid for the month.  All I wanted was a chance to spend more time with PUMA cub while working – and found that opportunity by freelancing.  I did it successfully for almost 6 yrs.

The only reason why I’m doing it is because this experience is now a nationwide crisis.

Some Conflucians are going through the same thing I am.  Others are lucky enough to miss a layoff wave at their jobs- at least this week.  Some are lucky enough to have that nest egg still there.  What we can’t ignore is that we are living in very precarious times – and I can bet that employer abuse will continue and will rise.  This is why I wasn’t celebrating the Ledbetter Act, because without the PayCheck Fairness Act, women are still vulnerable.

But I digress…as usual.  Let’s get to topic.

To answer Laurie’s first query, the state of Florida cut funding for the Dept of Children and Families (which is where Floridians apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps, Cash assistance for Rent & expenses, etc.)  Everything is done online here.  If you go to an office to apply, what you’ll find are computers and phones where you can call someone on the other side of a wall.  You do not speak to anyone face to face.  Only in rare cases, such as child and elderly abuse investigations, you’ll see a social worker’s face.

If you are a person with zero computer skills, you’re SOL.   They have to find someone to help them fill out the application online.  There is a phone number that you call, but this is the ONLY phone number that is available for the entire state of Florida which is the 4th most populous state in the nation.  It’s a 1-866 number, and it’s always busy.

If you get through the application, you’ll either get a phone call or a notification in the mail requesting proof of loss of income, any financial help you may have received from friends, proof of child support payments, etc.  Sometimes they won’t ask for anything at all, it just depends on what category the computer classifies you as.  Yes, a computer determines whether you are eligible or not.

I just got my letter today asking me to provide loss of income and proof of child support to receive Medicaid.  The income limit in Florida to receive assistance is roughly $1,500 per month.  I laughed when I read this, because this past year, I’ve made much less than $1,500 per month & didn’t think I would be able to qualify.   So far in Florida, you may qualify for MedicAid and Food Stamps even if you have up to $5000 in the bank, own your own home and own your own car.   Your actual present income is the determining factor, then minus your living expenses.  I think this all changed because of the foreclosure crisis and out of control inflation costs, rising cost of oil & bubbled property values.  Before, it wasn’t like that.  The income index levels for qualification were much lower than this.  So some of you out there reading this, you may qualify right now in your state and not even know it.

Food stamps aren’t actually “stamps.”  They are now in Debit Card form which every month, your approved amount is electronically transferred.  You can only use this for “food”, and thanks to supermarket UPC scanning, you can’t sneak a pack of cigarettes, wine or Bounty paper towel roll and charge it against your Food Stamp EBT card.  And you can’t exchange it for cash either.   Back when I was in college in the late 80s-early 90s (aka Bush 1.0 years), I used to PT as a clerk at my cousin’s bodega.  Food Stamps were actually coupons you tore off of a book.  The policy was to accept them for any item that was the equal value – no exception.  So the EBT card does work to prevent misuse of Food Stamp Funds, which is great.

I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because I filled out W-9 forms – which means that taxes are the employee’s responsibility.  When I was making bucks, I had to submit my earnings every quarter to the IRS, pay my taxes -and then wait to get all my 1099s for the year to file for the year.  This year, I made enough money to exempt me from filing taxes.  Can you believe that shit?  For the first time in my adult life – I am actually exempt because I was under the tax index level.  I know owe the IRS about $1800 from 2 years ago and I haven’t been able to pay that (hello, survival mode here!) and they told me, just pay 25 dollars a month if you can.  So I have.  But the IRS knows what I’m making (or not making).  They know I can’t afford to pay them now – so they leave me alone until I can.

Here’s the Unemployment Insurance qualifications depending on the state you live/work from a link at the US Dept of Labor which explains more:

Eligibility

1. You must meet the State requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period”. (In most States, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.)

2. You must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own (determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements of State law.

I don’t qualify under these perimeters because I am considered a “contract” employee.  But let’s say that I was pre-eligible.  I would have to file an unemployment claim, then based on the reason why I no longer am working, Unemployment will determine whether or not I could receive unemployment benefits.

Here’s more from the US Dept of Labor:

Benefits

  • In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period – up to a State maximum amount.
  • Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most States.
  • Additional weeks of benefits may be available during times of high unemployment (see Extended Benefits). Some States provide additional benefits for specific purposes.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return. You may elect to have the tax withheld by the State Unemployment Insurance agency.

With regards to this, some of the work I did part time was helping seniors and disabled people on Medicare – and people on Unemployment Insurance –  apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid.    All the people I helped were mostly working class people who couldn’t afford to pay the 20% that Medicare doesn’t cover, or were people who were referred to the office because they didn’t have computer skills to apply online.

Some of them were earning 800-1000 a month from their Social Security pension and had to pay 200-300 dollars a month for medicines, doctor co-pays, lab exams, etc.

But there were many people that were the in-betweeners, the 45-60 something yr old laid off workers from blue collar jobs.  The only income they had was unemployment insurance.

I remember a Cuban gentleman who was 61, got laid off from his job in a food processing plant and has diabetes.  He spent 300 dollars a month buying insulin and other diabetic supplies, but unemployment only paid him 160 dollars a week.  His wife (57 yrs old) came down with MS shortly after he got laid off.  She stopped working and is in the process of getting disability from Social Security.  They spent all their savings (about 10,000) on medical expenses after COBRA ran out.

When I asked him to show me all his documentation to fill out the application for Medicaid/Food Stamps, he started to cry.  This is a macho Cubano man  crying.  In front of a much younger woman.  This is a sin in my culture.  But he couldn’t take it anymore.  He told me the story of how he immigrated to FL after Fidel took over, he came first, then years later was able to bring his wife & young daughter over to the US.  He lived in Miami, then moved to Tampa after Hurricane Andrew.  He found a job at a food processing plant outside of Tampa and then – the entire company closed down last year.  He said that he never imagined that he had to live this way.  His daughter works at a day care center and moved in with them to help pay bills.  But everyone’s strapped.  His daughter makes 10.00 an hr.  Thank God, he says, his mortgage was paid off 5 yrs. ago, but how can he pay property taxes, house insurance, food & utility expenses, help his wife who was diagnosed with MS with her health needs, plus get his diabetes under control.  He told me he can’t die now, but if he didn’t get help from somewhere, he very well could be.  He sold his car to pay for the bills, so they rely on public transportation (which royally sucks in FL, how about waiting 2 hrs for a bus?)  He put his house on sale with hopes that someone will buy it, but there are no buyers.

About  week before I got laid off, the same man comes back with a box of candies for me.  He and his wife were approved for Medicaid and Food Stamps and he wanted to thank me for helping him (food stamps covers chocolates!)

I think about him & his wife, and the people I can no longer help because I’m laid off.  I think about the people who do not have a friend with a computer that can help them.  I think about the overwhelming and increasing cases of unemployment that have to depend on a now fragile and overextended system.  This is not the 70s-80s.  We have over 300 million people in this country – and shit ain’t getting better.

This is a song for the Cuban gentleman I mentioned and his wife, for all of us trying to survive.  This is the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz’ version of Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive.  The melody’s the same, but the translation in Spanish refers to a survival of spirit, of outliving bad times and facing the future with strength.

Para Don Avelino y Doña Carmen, and for everyone:

Feminists do not horse-trade women’s rights to care for their bodies for Republican votes

(cross-posted at Heidi Li’s Potpourri)

A week or so into our new Presidential administration, and the strange sensation of living in a universe that only partially intersects that of many people I would formerly have have considered obvious political allies continues. Starting yesterday and on through today I began receiving messages from blogger friends and then from NOW-NY and then Planned Parenthood, that something very strange seemed to be happening with the economic stimulus bill. Apparently President Obama (who neither NOW nor Planned Parenthood can bring themselves to name as part of the problem, although Planned Parenthood does suggest calling the White House (see additional Conflucian posts here and here)) and Congressional Democrats are willing to curry votes from Republicans on the Hill by cutting the Medicaid Family Planning State Option from the stimulus package the Congress is hoping to have ready for presidential signing by mid-Februrary. The Medicaid Family Planning State option is a provision that would provide health care coverage for 2.3 million low-income women, according to Planned Parenthood, by “allow[ing] states to expand their Medicaid family planning services, including cancer screenings and other preventive care, to more women in need, without having to go through the burdensome Medicaid waiver process.” Or as the National Women’s Law Center puts it, “In a disappointing move, the economic recovery package will not include a provision to make it easier for states to make family planning services more accessible and affordable to the millions of women and families who depend on them. The Medicaid Family Planning State Option would have allowed states to expand Medicaid eligibility for family planning services without having to obtain a federal waiver.”  Meanwhile, when I went to look at the January 28 New York Times print edition to for details, I found no mention of this ditching of the Family Planning option until deep into one of the three stories on the stimulus package, mentioned in passing in a vague paragraph on page A16 of the Washington print edition of the Times:

As the House version of the legislation came to the floor on Tuesday, Democrats stripped from it a provision that Republicans had ridiculedas having nothing to do with economic stimulus, one expanding federal Medicaid coverage of family planning services. (The Congressional Budget Office had estimated that the provision would actually save the government $200 million over five years by reducing pregnancy and postnatal-care expenses.)

Then, as I sat down to compose my thoughts about this latest bit of chicanery over women’s bodies, things turned a bit more surreal. Apparently, despite its reported spike in subscriptions, Ms. Magazine has enough leftover editions of its inaugural issue – you know, the one with this patently ridiculous cover, to just today be offering me more “one more chance” to own the cover in poster size.

Msposter2009wintercover

Please note: no way in hell does a feminist look like a person who is willing to horse-trade funds for family planning benefits under Medicaid to placate Republicans, who will do anything to beat back money for family planning which they are trying as quickly as possible to turn into an epithet. Family planning is a good idea. So is birth control in most people’s lives. So, in some cases, is access to safe and legal abortion. Family planning, birth control, access to safe and legal abortions: these are not dirty words. They are real world, practical options – options needed, at least as options, by all women if they are to be truly autonomous actors in our society; and therefore options that must be as available to those whose health insurance is provided by the government as to those whose insurance is provided by private insurers.

Here’s a little trick used by many who teach property law across the country. Most first year law students arrive in their Property Law courses with two visions of what property is: either the stuff they just put away in their dorm rooms or a field in the country somewhere. So we law professors often start by telling them that no,that isn’t property at all. What property really is, is the set of entitlements and rights any particular person or the state has to control or use the stuff they just put their dorm rooms or the field in the country. In other words, property is a bundle of say-so’s over what happens to the bits and pieces in the world. Continue reading