Monthly Archives: June 2012

Broccoli Battles: What are the Long-Term Consequences of the Supreme Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What a week for the United States. I generally shy away from writing about politically divisive issues on this blog, but there is no question that the news of the times this week in the United States was the Supreme Court decision on health reform.

I will not take a position on the merits of the bill here. As I have written previously, I firmly believe the health care system in the United States is badly broken and in desperate need of repair. But I will leave it to the experts to figure out how to do that.

This Supreme Court decision was about much more than just health care. This decision may have placed significant limitations on the future of the federal government to legislate.

While progressives collectively cheered the decision on Thursday and conservatives collectively gnashed their teeth, upon further analysis, I am not sure that these reactions are warranted.

Several recent articles have begun to explore the long-term ramifications of the decision. There will be more to come.

Many of my friends are health care policy experts and I would welcome their thoughts and clarifications here. In my reading of the Supreme Court decision, the Court rejected the use of the commerce clause as a basis for constitutionality and, in effect, punted the Medicaid decision to the states.

Looking through this lens, the decision was not a significant loss for conservatives, especially over the long term. In fact, it may go down in history as a turning point for limiting the powers of the federal government, which is a fundamental conservative principle.

An article in the New York Times goes into some detail about past use of the commerce clause, which has been used to pass legislation ranging from labor protections, to civil rights laws, to the Violence Against Women Act.

If the ruling this week limits the federal government’s ability to use the commerce clause to pass social legislation, this could be a significant gain for conservatives.

The other part of the decision, which has gotten little attention in the media, is the decision regarding the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the health insurance program that serves low income families in this country.

My understanding of the Supreme Court decision is that the court decided that the federal government can not take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if a state chooses not to implement the expansions included in the Affordable Care Act.

The court limited this provision to say that the federal government can take only the portion of a state’s Medicaid funding that would have paid for the expansion, but not all of the state’s Medicaid funding, if the state chooses not to implement the expansion.

In effect, the Supreme Court made this provision, which for many, is viewed as one of the most crucial provisions of the law, a state option.

This pushes the question of whether to expand Medicaid onto state governments, where the issue will likely have to be relitigated in political halls on the state level. This will likely be highly politicized and there is absolutely no guarantee that all states will expand this program.

This could mean that, in some states, people with higher incomes, from 133% of the federal poverty level to 400% of the federal poverty level could be given tax subsidies to enable them to purchase health insurance, but families on the razor’s edge of poverty could go without insurance.

Again, I am not advocating any particular position; I am just trying to lay a foundation for robust discussion. But it seems to me that the Roberts decision may, in the long run, have done more to forward conservative ideals than progressive ones.

What do you think? What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision? Why do you think Roberts made such a bold move? Do you believe that there will be long term legal consequences to this decision? How do you think this will affect the November election? Will you or your family personally benefit from the Affordable Care Act? Have you already?

I know this is a complex topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

32 Comments

Filed under Affordable Care Act, Culture, Economy, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Obamacare, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Women

Times Are Rough – I’ve Got Too Much Stuff!

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A friend recently shared an interesting article from the New York Times entitled “The Way We Live: Drowning in Stuff.” This article raises a number of interesting issues about family dynamics, many of which I explored in blog posts earlier this week.

The article discusses a new book coming out next week called, “Life at Home in the 21st Century.” This book is the result of a study in which anthropologists followed families with at least two small children in the home to document how these families handle their “stuff.”

One of the findings of the study which made me chuckle was this one:

There was a direct relationship between the amount of magnets on refrigerators and the amount of stuff in a household.

When I married my husband, he and I both knew – in fact, anyone who ever has known me for any period of time probably knew, that “stuff” would be our marital conflict. I like my stuff. My husband prefers a space that resembles a zen meditation center – without the meditation.

I come from a long line of pack rats. I feel a certain comfort when surrounded by things that remind me of people and places I love. My husband, on the other hand, feels comfort when surrounded by clean, flat surfaces without piles.

Having just faced the concept of having to pack only what would fit in my car to flee a wildfire, I was forced to think about all the stuff that surrounds me.

Somehow, when faced with the possibility of losing everything, I was not as panicked as I expected.

I think that was because I knew that I would be able to get myself, my husband and my teenage pup to safety and that we would all be fine, no matter what happened. Apparently, that is the stuff that matters.

What do you think? Are you a pack rat or a minimalist? Do you have emotional issues about your stuff? Do you regret having eliminated something that you thought was clutter, only to realize later that you needed that item? Have you had to work through these issues with an aging parent? Do you have any advice for those of us who like to hold on to things? And why does it seem that when I come back from a long trip, I feel much more willing to get rid of things that were not needed and used in whatever bag I took? That seems to be the best time for my husband to discuss this issue with me, when I am most open to changing. Finally, how many refrigerator magnets are on your refrigerator?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

29 Comments

Filed under Books, comedy, Culture, Environment, equality, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, Stereotypes

How to Get More Mileage Out of Your Frequent Flier Miles

While I realize that we are all anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court Decision on health care, which should be coming any minute, I am going to share an article that will help us all get away once the dust settles. Unfortunately, writing about the health care law would feel a little bit too much like my day job.

I have no doubt that I will do that at some point, but for today, I am going to write about travel, my first love. Suffice it to say that we have an intractable health care problem in this country and I hope we find a way for more people to get affordable health care.

With that said, an article in the New York Times about services to help make frequent flier miles more user-friendly intrigued me. In our house, we look for every opportunity to obtain frequent flier miles. Heck, I would even pay a little more for an item if I knew I was getting miles in return.

And we use them. We have even racked up enough miles to fly first class to Argentina – more than once! And I will tell you, for an overnight flight, it is worth every mile. Instead of stumbling to our destination and falling into bed for a nap, we awoke refreshed and ready to enjoy the day.

It can be complicated to use frequent flier miles, as there are often restrictions and blackout dates. The services in this article are meant to help consumers ensure that they can find a way to get the most out of their miles.

I don’t know; I haven’t found it to be so complicated to use miles – perhaps I should have started one of these agencies myself! The agencies charge fees in the ballpark of $150. I thought the point of using frequent flier miles was to save money!

What do you think? Do you accumulate frequent flier miles? Have you had trouble using them? Would you use one of these services? If you have used one of these services, what was your experience? Do you have any exciting frequent flier travel coming up? If so, where are you going?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

13 Comments

Filed under Culture, Health, International, Politcs, travel

The Hazards of Mountain Living: Colorado Forest Fires

Copyright JC Politi Photography

(First, a quick note for my family: The photos in this blog post make the fire look closer than it is. We are fine. I promise.)

Without question, the news of the times in our house right now is focused on forest fires. I have lived in Colorado for the better part of 10 years. I have followed news stories and inhaled smoke when winds changed from countless fires over the years. It is a part of living in the mountains.

But yesterday, while driving back from a business meeting, I saw the first plume of smoke that was much too close for comfort. This fire is different. This fire is 3 miles from our house, right behind the foothills that have provided us with the most spectacular view for years. People say fire does not usually travel down a mountain, which provides some comfort, since this fire is currently on the other side of the mountain.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

We do not live nestled into the mountains. There are streets and even a small neighborhood between our house and the fire. It is highly unlikely that anything will happen to our house. But we are in the pre-evacuation zone and the winds are picking up. And the plumes of smoke are ominous.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

While we honestly do not think that any harm will come to our home, these types of experiences certainly make you think. If I had to leave with only what would fit in my car, what would I take? How would I walk away from all the comforts that surround me knowing that it may all be gone when I return? Does any of the “stuff” even matter?

What do you think? Have you ever been in a wildfire, tornado, flood or hurricane? Did you evacuate? What lessons did you learn through this experience?  If you had to leave with only a few things, what would be on the top of your list? What advice do you have for me or for others who may face this type of experience in the future?

I hope you will share your thoughts. And thank you for reading.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

Copyright JC Politi Photography

 

 

 

 

 

42 Comments

Filed under Colorado, Environment, Forest Fires, Health, Photos

Weekly Travel Theme: Parks

Where’s My Backpack has offered another irresistible photo challenge. This week’s theme is Parks. As an outdoorsy type who lives in Colorado, I have a soft spot in the center of my heart reserved for parks, most specifically for national parks.

Nature’s

Amazing

Triumph

Inspiring

Observant

Notions

About

Life

 

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Peaceful

Awakening

Rejuvenated

Kingly

Spaces

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

38 Comments

Filed under Culture, Peace, Photos, Poetry, Role of Government, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge

Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

28 Comments

Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Income inequality, Parenting, Peace, Policy, Poverty, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.   

17 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership