Category Archives: End of Life

Tunes Tuesday: Indigo Girls

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Copyright JC Politi Photography

For this week’s Tunes Tuesday, I have chosen the Indigo Girls’ Galileo. I have always loved these lyrics, and they are even more thought-provoking when you think about the meaning behind the song. I would love to hear what this song brings up for you.

Galileo
Indigo Girls

Galileo’s head was on the block
The crime was looking up for truth
And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode
I try to trace them to my youth

And then you had to bring up reincarnation
Over a couple of beers the other night
And now I’m serving time for mistakes
Made by another in another lifetime

How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision, King of insight

And then I think about my fear of motion
Which I never could explain
Some other fool across the ocean years ago
Must have crashed his little airplane

How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach that kind of light?
I call on the resting soul of Galileo
King of night vision, King of insight

I’m not making a joke, you know me
I take everything so seriously
If we wait for the time till all souls get it right
Then at least, I know there’ll be no nuclear annihilation
In my lifetime, I’m still not right

I offer thanks to those before me
That’s all I’ve got to say
‘Cause maybe you squandered big bucks in your lifetime
Now I have to pay

But then again it feels like some sort of inspiration
To let the next life off the hook
But she’ll say, “Look what I had to overcome from my last life
I think, I’ll write a book

How long till my soul gets it right?
Can any human being ever reach the highest light?
Except for Galileo, God rest his soul
King of night vision, King of insight

What do you think? What do you think about reincarnation? And why do you think that some of the most innovative and brilliant thinkers have been demonized and ostracized in their lifetimes?

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

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Filed under Culture, End of Life, Music

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.

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

No More Golden Parachutes for Firefighters! Why Are Pensions Always the First to Go?

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An article in the New York Times this week entitled “When ALEC Takes Over Your Town” examines the financial problems of a town in Rhode Island. This town could be just about any town in the United States.

The article discusses the demise of a proposal to increase taxes to boost the local economy in the town and highlights the fact that one of the two legislators in the House of Representatives who blocked the proposed increase is on the on the national board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

While ALEC is a blog post topic for another day, anyone who is unfamiliar with this group should simply know that this is a highly conservative lobbying group posing as a non-profit, which promotes some of the most mean-spirited state legislation you can possibly imagine.

One of their pieces of model legislation, which they shop around to state legislators around the country, is the infamous Stand Your Ground Law that was the subject of much conversation in the Trayvon Martin case.

ALEC also devotes significant energy to working to shrink the size of government. But again, I have no doubt that I will write a post another day on ALEC.

But what interested me in this article is something that also came up in the comments section from yesterday’s post about the European Financial Crisis. The issue that I would like to explore today is the issue of what many call “bloated” pensions and what impact these pensions are having on budgets around the world.

As one of my brilliant readers noted yesterday, many say that pensions play a significant role in the financial problems in Europe today. We know that this is also an issue here in the United States, especially on the state and local level.

But it is important to remember what we are talking about here – the people who will be receiving these pensions are people who have served their country in one way or another, be it as a teacher, a fire-fighter, a police officer or some other sort of public servant. These are not people with golden parachutes and corporate bonuses.

I would imagine that firefighters and teachers plan for their financial future just like the rest of us. So, what happens when the legislature or local government slashes these benefits? What is the human impact on the people who depend on these benefits?

I understand that the math is complicated when it comes to talking about pensions. And I also understand that we have an aging population which creates complications on a number of levels, with significant fiscal consequences.

But shouldn’t we be focused on finding solutions to the problems that arise with an aging population? And why are the pensions of hard working individuals the first thing on the chopping block?

What do you think? Why do you think there is so much attention right now on pensions? Do you see other ways that a government could address the aging population that could actually help save money? What do you think people do when their pensions are slashed? Are there other areas of the budget where you think states and localities could find savings? Have you, personally experienced a reduction in the benefits you were expecting to receive? How has that impacted you and your family?

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

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Filed under Career Planning, Economy, Education, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government

Wall Street is Like a Middle School Playground: How do you Plan to Retire?

I turned 40 this year and decided that it was time to try and understand what steps I need to take to be able to retire someday, with the full understanding that Social Security simply will not be the answer for my generation. I realize that it takes more than just a Social Security check for most people to be able to retire anymore, but even that paltry check is unlikely to be there when I hit retirement age.

After prompting by my accountant mother (thanks Mom!) I started to research the best ways to invest money for retirement a few years ago. And I started paying attention to the stock market. Granted, I began watching the stock market in 2008, and we all know that, since that time, the market has experienced one of its most turbulent episodes in its history. So, my next statement could be off the mark for people who have been tracking these issues for a long time. And if this statement is incorrect, I would love to hear from you.

Is it just me, or is the stock market as temperamental as a school child? I am astounded by the roller coaster of ups and downs in the market, which seems to be wildly impacted by rumors and hearsay or by the latest statement from the Fed.

The stock market holds the hopes and dreams of many Americans, including many in my generation who are looking for ways to pay for their retirement. The roller coaster of the past several years, combined with the despicable actions of many bankers on Wall Street, have made people very nervous about where they should place their money.

And yet the buzz surrounding the Facebook IPO made it clear that people still want a get rich quick scheme and see the market as a place to make that happen.

What do you think? Have you changed your investment strategies since the economic collapse in 2008? Do you have any faith in the stock market or do you feel that your money would be better invested elsewhere? Are you depending on social security to fund your retirement? Have you put much thought into this issue?

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

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Filed under Career Planning, End of Life, Income inequality, Poverty, Role of Government

Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients

An article in yesterday’s New York Times entitled “Doctor Panels Recommend Fewer Tests for Patients” by Roni Caryn Rabin appears to be a step in the right direction, albeit a controversial one. You can read the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/health/doctor-panels-urge-fewer-routine-tests.html.

Who, among us, doesn’t know someone who went to a doctor to check on one medical issue and came out with a litany of tests allegedly needed for something else entirely? Frequently, these tests examine issues that do not negatively impact a person’s health – they turn up things like cysts that are common-place and completely benign, but which must be poked and prodded to confirm their innocence; and then the medical bills pour in.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that in a small number of cases, these tests save lives and can identify disease that would likely not have otherwise surfaced until the disease had progressed.

There seems to be a general consensus on a rational level that the US medical system, or at least how it is financed, is broken. The Supreme Court issues of this past week notwithstanding, there will continue to be a pressing need to discuss how to contain costs and how to keep healthcare from further plunging the US economy into further debt.

But these issues are also deeply personal, which is what makes them so complex.

Questions for Discussion: What do you think about the new push to reduce the number of tests and medical procedures? Have you had an experience where you have been subjected to endless, needless tests which turned out to be of no benefit to your health at all? Have you had tests or procedures that actually ended up harming your health in the long-run? Have you been one of the lucky few who may have been saved by one of these tests of procedures? We all know that medical debt is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the US; where does that fit into this discussion? And how can we help quiet the political rhetoric surrounding this deeply personal, but financially consequential issue to enable politicans and health experts to look for realistic and meaningful solutions to these issues?

Please share your thoughts! And thank you for reading.

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Filed under End of Life, Health

Respect the Future

I am still not sure if I will typically write more than once a week, but I read a moving story today that was fairly related to the story that I posted for discussion this past weekend. Maybe I’ll try to have weekly themes. We will just have to see how this blog evolves.

This thought-provoking and truly heart-breaking story was published yesterday in the New York Times and was written by David Brooks. The article tells the story of a husband, whose wife suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, who recently killed his wife and then himself. It is entitled “Respect the Future” and can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/opinion/brooks-respect-the-future.html

David Brooks reports in the article that a majority of the readers who commented on a news article recounting the incident sympathized with the husband, who did the killing. I have known people who have suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, as I am sure have many of you.  I have long believed that this is one of the most cruel diseases which can afflict a person. This disease can rip families apart and turn friends and lovers into strangers. I even remember getting tears in my eyes when I read that Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer’s disease, (and I have never been a Ronald Reagan fan, as many of you know). It is simply devastating to watch a person whose body is perfectly healthy, slowly lose their mind.

This article really moved me and raised a lot of questions for me that I thought I would share:

Do you feel sympathy with the husband in this situation? What could drive a man who clearly loved his wife to do such a thing? Are there any circumstances under which you, personally, could condone this act? And if the husband had not been successful in his suicide attempt and had survived, would you convict him if you were on the jury?  Are there things that friends, family or society could have done to make this couple’s existance more bearable? Have any of you been faced with a similar experience of feeling isolated or hopeless when caring for a loved-one? And do have any advice or thoughts to share with others about how you could have been better supported by those closest to you or about how you recieved support from people you least expected?

Please share your thoughts when you have a minute! I will try to make next week’s stories more light-hearted, but end of life issues are certainly issues that effect all of us at one time or another. Thanks for reading.

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Filed under End of Life, Health, Relationships

Taking Responsibility for Death

This week’s story was published in today’s Sunday New York Times. I haven’t decided if I will just pick out weekend articles or if I will also write during the week. I suppose it will depend on whether or not there is a story that begs discussion that I stumble across during the week. It will also depend on whether I have the energy at the end of a day to think much about it. But the more comments we recieve, the more I will feel inspired to write. That is really meant to be the heart of this blog – it is meant to be a space where people can safely discuss important issues that challenge every one of us on a daily basis. So, please dive in and share your thoughts!

I have also been thinking about what I meant when I wrote that I don’t want this blog to be political. Any one who knows me knows that I wear my politics on my sleeve and that I am very passionate about current political issues. But politics have become so polarized and I do not want to buy into this polarization. All of us, regardless of political persuasion, deal with significant issues every day in which we can find common interest and comfort from people from all walks of life.

This week’s story is entitled “Taking Responsibility for Death” and can be found here: http://nyti.ms/H2tZ26 I find it interesting that this is one of the most e-mailed stories of the day today at the New York Times. This is an article that discusses the difficult reality that all of us eventually face when confronted with the fact that every one of us will face the death of loved ones, and ultimately of ourselves. It discusses some practical steps that all of us should take to prepare for this inevitability.

I wonder if this is the most e-mailed article because sending someone something that a respected newspaper has published about this topic is an easier way to open the discussion than to bring it up more personally. With the commonality of this issue, why are we all so uncomfortable to talk about end of life issues? And how – when every person, regardless of political affiliation, will deal with this reality – has this issue become so politicized?

I have some close friends who lost family members at a very young age and they have shared with me that people simply do not know what to say to try and console them. They have shared that people do not have to try to think of the perfect thing to say – that it helps for a person to simply acknowledge what they are going through. But so often, people are afraid to say anything at all. What is it that makes people so uncomfortable, even when trying to support a friend who has lost a loved one or who has just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, to look the realities of death in the face and to stand together to face the issue head-on? And does this discomfort change as people get older – does it lessen or does it get worse?

And how many of my (many ;-)) readers have thought about developing a living will? Or talked with their parents about their end of life issues? In fact, how many of you have a legal will at all? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we could move beyond the taboos associated with talking about death and dying and support each other more as we struggle through these difficult issues?

This week, I challenge each of us to do one thing to make sure that we have our legal and personal affairs in order to make things easier on the people who depend on us when it is our time to go. And to remember that life is short, so we need to appreciate every precious moment we get to share with the people we love.

Thanks for reading. Please share your thoughts!

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Filed under End of Life, Health, Parenting, Relationships