Don’t worry, be happy, because we are all living the dream

By | February 5, 2018 6:28 am

Democratic Dialog – By Debra Wines

In the last two weeks, we have heard Gov. Haslam’s State of the State speech and Donald Trump’s State of the Union address. According to both of them, we’re cool and everything is great, on the surface. Yes, in both Tennessee and America, the economy is moving right along. Unemployment is low. This is good news. Yet, it isn’t anywhere near as wonderful as these two men want us to believe for every American.

Gov. Haslam did have good news about Tennessee’s economy, and, yes, things are looking up as far as job growth in certain areas. I am pleased with his proposal to have more than $200 million added to K-12 education, including pay increases for teachers. I am also glad to see he included $128 million in job-growth investments and an additional $30 million to help fight the opioid epidemic in our state.

I am a bit confused by a few things he proposed that, to me, seem a bit conflicting. He proposed $108.1 million in cuts to the budget, which includes eliminating 335 government position across the state. You might think, WOW, that’s great, let’s cut back on state government jobs and reduce the costs of state government – that’s a smart move. The conflict and confusion for me comes with the number of people in specific departments of the state government that are to be eliminated.

The governor proposed $80 million for the Jobs4TN program as part of the Department of Economic and Community Development. He also proposed $12.5 to help rural development, help with infrastructure, and strategic planning. At the same time, he is cutting 89 full-time positions, 54 part-time positions, 15 administration employees, 36 workforce service employees, and 38 unemployment insurance employees from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. It seems to me those two departments would be working hand in hand when it comes to promoting and retaining jobs in Tennessee. Gov. Haslam claims this particular staff reduction for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development would be $5.1 million. I’m wondering how this elimination of 178 full-time jobs and 54 part-time jobs will help or hinder the functioning of this department. Were these positions eliminated because they somehow overlap and are redundant with jobs being done by the Department of Economic and Community Development?

There are some other odd cuts being made to the Department of Human Services. With all the talk about working on the opioid epidemic in Tennessee, it seems rather strange that 53 jobs from rehabilitation services, two from disability determination, two from quality improvement, and nine from administration will be eliminated. The Department of Intellectual Disabilities would see 20 positions gone, in addition to nine jobs with Middle Tennessee Community Homes, as part of that department’s reductions. The Department of Children’s Services will see 12 positions cut. Again, I am confused. I would think with the push to fight our opioid problem, people from these departments would be on the front lines to help the families and children who are being affected directly and indirectly by this epidemic. I know one statistic for alcoholism used to be for every alcoholic at least five other people are affected by the alcoholic’s disease. That was back in the 90’s. I’m not sure if that statistic has really changed. I don’t imagine the number of five ever went lower. I imagine, though, the number may be much higher now and probably even higher with illegal opioid usage.

Another confusing point in Gov. Haslam’s budget proposals for combating the opioid epidemic is $10.2 million for treatment, $2.4 million for law enforcement, and $1.8 million for prevention. Where is that money for treatment going to go? Is the state going to open up more inpatient treatment centers? Are there going to be outpatient treatment centers and therapists opening offices across the state? Would the cost of addiction treatment have been reduced if our state legislators would have voted to approve the expansion of Medicaid? Would we have such a large epidemic if Medicaid had been expanded and people could have gotten better medical care and perhaps avoided getting addicted to opioids? I guess we’ll never know.

The state of the union address by Mr. Trump was fascinating and so positive sounding. I did notice that he failed to say anything about the increased debt Americans will have with his wonderful tax cuts. I also noticed he did not say a word about the proposed reductions to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and other safety net programs to help balance his budget. He said nothing about the cuts in federal spending programs, like education, NHC, and the CDC that can, and will, affect a large majority of people.

Donald Trump seems to believe if ALL regulations were eliminated, every business in America would be thriving. He never seems to take into consideration those regulations, like laws, were put into place to protect human beings from being poisoned by pollutants in our water, food, air, and our land. Regulations protect adults and children from being injured or killed by unsafe products. Regulations protect workers from being killed or injured due to unsafe work environments. Regulations protect our environment and help slow down global climate change. Regulations were helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuel products and promoting cleaner, renewable energy sources to save our environment. Regulations on foreign products that are imported for our use need to be as safe as products made in our own country.

If every human being behaved properly, had common sense, used logic, and treated each other as they wanted to be treated and no one thought they were better and deserved more than anyone else, the world would not need laws. The reality is, human nature doesn’t work that way, and we therefore need laws to, in a great many cases, “force us to do the right thing.” The same holds true for government regulations. Donald Trump’s administration has pushed for deregulating Wall Street and the banks that were the center of the financial crisis that took place from about 2005-2008. The current budget proposal for the federal government shows ZERO funding for the Consumer Protection Agency, which helped millions of people who were swindled by financial institutions that started the crisis. I don’t understand why Mr. Trump, his administration, and the Republican legislative members see the CPA as some kind of threat and refuse to acknowledge the good they do for the average American consumer. Yet, if you listen to the Republicans and Donald Trump, everything is fine now; there is nothing to worry about.

Mr. Trump praised himself and the Republicans in Congress for the “biggest tax reduction in history” and how much it was already improving things for all American workers. He was thrilled to announce the fact that so many workers were getting $1,000 bonuses from their employees because he was able to cut the taxes for corporations. I’m sure the people who are receiving those bonuses are happy. I just wonder how much actual cash they will get once taxes are taken from that $1,000. I’d be willing to bet that most of those people would have been much happier, in the long run, if they had been given a $1 or $2 per hour raise rather than a one-time bonus.

The American Dream, as Donald Trump touts it, is still a little murky for me. I’m not sure what that phrase is really supposed to mean. When I think of the “American Dream,” I think about every American citizen being able to live without fear or worry about not having a good job; having a decent, safe place to live; having a good and safe environment for their children and their grandchildren; a quality education for themselves and their children; quality and affordable healthcare; having the opportunity to reach whatever goals they set for themselves; and growing old with dignity and security.

I also believe part of the American Dream is to have our elected legislators, at all levels, prove they listen, understand, and will work for the majority of the citizens they represent. I believe the American public is tired of people like the Koch Brothers, ultra-rich individuals, large corporations, and industries dictating how our government functions. I believe the American Dream is based in the hope our government and the people we elected to run it are acting in OUR best interests when it comes to trade deals, who they borrow money from, and how they propose to keep the world from blowing up.

If we, as Americans, are ever going to have our “American Dream,” we are going to have to wake up, research who is running for public office, and ask questions. If you don’t like the answers you are given, ask more questions. Support the candidates you feel will represent your “American Dream.” Make sure you are registered to vote, make sure your friends, neighbors and family members are registered to vote, and take advantage of the fact that in Tennessee we have early voting so you can cast your vote at whatever time is most convenient for you.   Every one of us should be embarrassed at the low number of people in our state who are not registered and those who are who do not vote. If you do not get out and vote, you really don’t have any right to complain about what is wrong with your “American Dream.”

comments » 1

  1. Comment by Barbara Rosensteel

    February 9, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    Once again, Ms. Wines has written with an uncommon clarity and attention to details that most others lack because, let’s face it, it is time-consuming and difficult to “dive under the surface” of the what is spoken in the grand, tightly controlled, speeches of our politicians. But, we must do so if we are to become voters who are informed by the facts, and not by emotion. “De-regulation” is one of those words spoken as a great achievement that helps businesses and the economy. And, yes, that is true, but at who’s expense? Not the senior executives and stockholders who get richer at our expense. When pressed, they are unable to give you even one example of any specific piece of “de-regulation” that benefits the “common man and woman” or at least causes no harm. “Cutting the budget” to “live within our means” sounds great until you dive deeper and find out that the majority of those cuts are being made in the agencies, programs, and people who serve the best interests and needs of the “common” people, our communities, our cities and towns and rural areas.

    Ms Wines, I encourage you to keep on writing your factual, clear, and intelligent analysis of current events and issues affecting our lives and our country.

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