The hardest political choice…

Yeah, I gotta hard choice for ya...

Compassion…

That’s right, compassion… I keep hearing politicians talk about hard choices, about tough decisions and being realistic…you know, their usual line and all of it typically means only one thing…but I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Let me start over…

So, few days ago I was blocking traffic on a bridge as part of a national day of action. Good time, didn’t necessarily agree with the tactic but felt it important enough to be a part of the overall message, the anger at the destruction wrought by income inequality in this country, the idea that people, wealthy people and corporations need to pay their fair share for a society they reap untold benefit from yet seem to feel they have little to no responsibility towards, this despite all the assistance they get, be it the use of roads, protection from the police, fire, maybe even generous financial subsidies from the government. Would seem pretty simple. If society goes to shit, wealthy people and corporations are going to be affected same as anybody else…perhaps not as severe but affected nonetheless. In any case, on the bridge, good feelings of doing something active, being a part of things and making a positive choice, myself and everybody else made a choice to be on that bridge…don’t know what everybody else gave up but I gave up needed sleep, some time to myself and it turned the better part of my day into a rush job so I could get back to work: third shift all night talking to and assisting people who have reached their end of it, either with thoughts of suicide, or actual attempts…and that night, like last night, like tonight…finances are a tremendous stressor and in these hard financial times, this is precisely when many people need help the most…but then, in between my time on the bridge and going to work I read in the news about how the mayor has passed a new budget, and surprise, surprise…the talk is about “hard choices,” about an “honest budget,” and while he and the city council talk solemnly about their honesty…they lie their asses off, either that or they are absolute bastards and either way, it doesn’t speak much to any of their character.

Why?

Simple…

Their “hard choices” meant they chose to close budgetary holes by attacking the needs of the poor and middle class.

These politicians chose to privatize city health clinics, thus ensuring fewer people get medical care and those that do,wait longer…all so someone else gets a profit and the city saves money. They chose to close half of the city’s mental health clinics, thus ensuring people with mental health issues either cannot get treatment or also must wait much longer. They also chose to lay off people working the 911 lines, this ensuring people who call for help, they too will wait longer…and they chose much more…higher city fees and penalties which will affect those of meager means far more than their wealthier neighbors…and by neighbors, I mean the people who live on the other side of town, far away.

These austerity measures are the politicians’ “hard choices,” for their “honest budget,” but in truth, there wasn’t anything hard about it at all. That’s just a vernacular they use at get togethers, or with the press to make themselves feel better for the damage they cause to real people.

You see, these politicians have been making these choices for forty fucking years and these politicians, and the corporations and the wealthy? They are the ones who benefit the most from these “hard choices.” Everybody else? Yeah, screwed just a little more, year after year after year…budget cut after cut after cut… The only way these choices would really be hard for the politicians who make them is if they truly cared about those who suffered as a result, but I would argue they don’t care, not really for if they did they simply wouldn’t do it. They would raise taxes, they would cut spending on subsidies for wealthy corporations, they would do a number of things that might even be the kind of hard choices to jeopardize their future electability…all in the name of compassion, and doing the right, moral thing.

Yes, compassion is the hard choice, the choice they are unwilling to make…and because of that people will suffer.

Some who are mentally ill will lose jobs, alienate family, abuse drugs and alcohol, or only receive treatment in prison where some will wind up as a result of their symptoms and what they do to alleviate them, which is especially sad as the city will pay more to lock them up then they would to provide treatment in the first place. Some people will die from physical illness or perhaps not go to the doctor until their ailments grow far worse and even more expensive, again to the city. Longer response time for 9-11 calls…again, suffering and some will die.

How many degrees of separation need to occur before these politician can sleep at night, distancing themselves emotionally from the blood on their hands as a result of their ballyhooed “honest budget?”

Hard to say, you’d have to ask the politicians themselves, but not just the politicians in my city, go across the country because these same decisions are happening nation wide and the same people are suffering as a result throughout the entire country.

Oh…but some will say we just can’t afford compassion anymore.

Yeah? Why is that?

I know…because for the past thirty plus years, politicians have been deregulating the markets, signing free trade agreements that are anything but, deregulating the banks and lowering tax rates on the wealthiest all so they can get elected, and as a result all the money that used to be used to pay for people, for compassion has been concentrated, hoarded, moved out of the country by the constituents these politicians actually do care about…the people who are not you or me and certainly not anyone who needs anymore help…They only really care about the job creators, those same job creators who aren’t creating any jobs…

And how long until this bullshit charade ends in the United States?

I don’t know…look in the mirror and ask yourself that question, because it really is up to you, up to all of us…and we’re all going to have to be patient in this fight because great change takes a long time…so if you’re game, settle in and let’s rebuild a nation that again gives a damn about the people living in it, and when this fight is over, it will be worth it…and if you have kids they’ll thank you for your trouble…everybody will except the 1% that loves it the way it is now…

Just a thought.

Oh, and on a more personal note…

Rahm?

You are truly pathetic and it’s easy to see how you were Obama’s chief of staff…the both of you only pay lip service to helping those who need it…especially around election time you lying sons of bitches…

And Boeing?

I lived in Seattle back when you played your corporate lottery to see which city would give you the sweetest deal for the headquarters of your corporate offices. Yeah just the latest company at the time to play community blackmail, thus forcing “hard choices” and “honest budgets” so you can line your coffers with blood money. You were a part of Seattle’s history and once a vital part of its community and identity, and you just betrayed them for profit.

Oh, and Twitter?

The progressive company…right. You threatened San Francisco with moving your company out of the city until they gave you a huge break on payroll taxes amongst other goodies that cost the city millions, all the while the city is forced to cut back on services, cut bus routes, cut, cut, cut…but hey, as long as you greedy assholes and frauds are getting wealthier…who cares, right?

Okay then, everybody else…

Have a nice day.

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Be back Monday…the trouble with the (personal) economy…

2nd choice...

So, four months from now on March 1st of 2012, I am finally out of the Great White North and heading back to what I thought might be New Orleans. Would certainly make sense with all the writing I do on this site that this town is where my interests lie, and it is, but the damned economy…here’s the thing that keeps throwing rocks in my pool, floating the ripples so I can’t see so clearly through the water…

Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular which has been much spared by the recession and boasts an unemployment rate of 6.9% has essentially no social work jobs to speak of, or at least very few that would enable someone such as myself to be able to afford the rents that never seemed to go down all that much post-Katrina, yet in San Francisco, even though the city by the bay shamefacedly hosts an unemployment rate of 9.2% while the state of California struggles under its own 12.1% rate, there are social work jobs to be had, a few anyway.

So whereas I thought I would be able to head South, the ability to eat and sleep indoors may shove me West.

Needless to say this is disappointing and has led me to go on hiatus this week from the website while I figure out what this means both for me and for the website in general…

In any case…please excuse these more personal meanderings; just explaining an absence that maybe don’t need to be explained at all…

See ya Monday. Have a nice day.

-Drake

Hang in there…major sleep disruptions

Back to the job I love, adjusting...

Hey all, hang in there a little longer…I’m in process of switching my sleep to a third shift schedule and it’s causing major routine disruptions…

Ya know tho’…not too sure how many of you work a third shift gig, (I have before and its preferred, including 3rd shift bartending in New Orleans at one time) but once things shake out, am I the only one that finds the whole turning everything upside down, lack of sunlight, more solitude and that kind of comfortable loneliness of less people being around to be intellectually stimulating?

Maybe its the novelty of change.

Maybe its the better traffic.

Maybe its good strong coffee…in any case…see ya tonight people…

– Drake

The Legacy of Katrina Study – The Kids Aren’t Alright

Another legacy from Katrina

As a social worker, you develop a really dark sense of humor, a mindset often used as a coping mechanism for some of what you see and the stories you hear. During Katrina, I was living on the West Coast and at conferences, or in simple conversations with co-workers a statement I heard more than any other went something like this: “New Orleans? Jesus, that whole city’s going to have PTSD.”

And while out in the cozy confines of California with its progressive funding of help for those in need (at least before Schwarzenegger and the recession) many there assumed that in New Orleans, people would be taken care of, programs would be set up for counseling or whatever else might be needed to assist the residents both in the city and displaced. It would simply be the right thing to do, the moral thing.

When this line of reasoning was presented to me, I would often ask if they had ever been to New Orleans, especially beyond the confines of the French Quarter? I would say I was no expert on the city, but I cautioned how this “assumed” help would not be the case. Even before Katrina and the flood, the social service systems in the city were bad, with poor funding.

“How bad?” They would ask.

I’d just kinda shake my head.

And five years later, one can effectively conclude that no, not the entire city developed PTSD, but enough of the residents both displaced and returned, did develop enough mental health symptoms to make a social worker’s head spin, especially those social workers who work with children…and the needed help? It didn’t materialize.

“From the perspective of the Gulf’s most vulnerable children and families, the recovery from Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been a dismal failure.” – Irwin Redliner, MD, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia.

From a new study by the NCDP and a report by the Children’s Health Fund come these key findings:

– Even as long as four and a half years after the event, about 45% of parents report that their children are experiencing emotional or psychological problems that they hadn’t experienced prior to Katrina.

– Children post-Katrina are 4.5 times more likely to have serious emotional disturbance than pre-Katrina. For the purposes of this study, such disturbances were defined as emotional issues, hyperactivity, conduct and problems relating to peers.

– Nearly half of people who had been displaced for over a year by Katrina are still living in unstable conditions.

Dr. Redliner continues: “Affected families need urgent assistance to return to a state of ‘normalcy’ characterized by safe communities and stable housing. Nearly two out of three children affected by Katrina continue to experience serious mental and behavioral problems or the stress of unstable housing or both, with children living in poverty over two times as susceptible to serious emotional disorders. We believe that this represents at least 20,000 children affected by Katrina – and perhaps considerably more. Immediate action needs to be taken to increase mental health services in the region.”

Five years later, this is the case and it is appalling.

I would suspect that with BP’s Catastraphuk, the last thing Congress and the Obama administration want to hear about is Katrina, but these 20,000 kids in Redliner’s estimate? What those who control the purse strings need to realize is, even if they decline to offer help now because of cost, they will be paying for a substantial portion of them eventually. Untreated mental illness in children, especially conduct disorder, often follows predictable paths: substance abuse, criminal thinking, prison.

So why not try to help now, while they still got a chance, as opposed to later in the criminal justice system when the cell block doors slam shut?

And since those in Congress seem to respond best to the money question, here’s a statistic for ya:

In a Houston study, the average cost for mental health treatment and emotional support in 2008 was $1338.99.

The annual cost in 2001 for a prison inmate was almost $23,000 dollars.

Just do the math…I can help if ya like.

Read the article,

‘Legacy of Katrina’ report details impact of stalled recovery on mental health status of children

Have a nice day.