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It's All Connected...

WICHITA, Kan. - As President Obama prepares for the bipartisan healthcare summit on Thursday, and in light of the increasingly uncertain future of current healthcare reform efforts in Congress, I thought it might be worthwhile to point out two policy areas that, while not seeming to be directly connected to healthcare, would, were they to be dealt with effectively, have a substantial impact on healthcare costs and effects in this country. We could call this, "how to deal with healthcare without dealing with healthcare."

The first is food policy, and the second is transportation policy. The relation of these to healthcare is evinced by a recent Newsweek article on heart disease, in which both were mentioned. I would venture to say that with the exception of quitting smoking, no two factors would have a larger impact on heart disease than these.

Cause and effect

WICHITA, Kan. - Last week I wrote about the real repercussions cuts in the state budget have on people in need who depend on not for profits for services, which in turn depend on funding from the state, and the fetishism of anti-tax elements in Kansas who refuse to look at revenue streams no matter how many people it hurts.

You couldn't find a better example of this than the front page of today's Eagle. On the top of the page is an article about how funding is about to run out for the Child Advocacy Center, which deals with the most voiceless, helpless victims in our society - children who are victimized by those closest to them. The work is complicated and difficult and is spread across many agencies. The Center gets 54% of its funding from the state. If that gets cut, tough luck battered children.

Bankrupt Kansas, Bankrupt Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. - On Friday I attended the Nonprofit Chamber of Service's "Board University," its annual meeting surrounded by an all-day conference dedicated to issues of interest to NFPs and their boards. A lot of the organizations that belong to it are grassroots social service organizations, like drug treatment centers and working with the mentally disabled and abused children. Really hands on, on the ground work.

I went to all the "leading your nonprofit through hard times" sessions. We would go around the room and talk about whether our budget was going down, if we'd had to lay off people or cut back services, etc. A lot of the organizations are very reliant on government support for their efforts, and that has been falling. So someone would say, "we lost $60,000 in government support," or "it depends on what level the state funds Medicaid reimbursements" which is a big issue for some, and some other groups depend on the sales tax exemptions, which I'll get to in a minute.

Of course, as you may know, the state of Kansas has cut about 20% of its budget in the past year due to recession-caused revenue shortfalls. Well, that and the steadfast refusal of the state legislature to do anything on the revenue side. We have a pretty strong tea party culture in this state, and it's an election year, and there isn't a Republican in the Central Time Zone who wants to be on record supporting a tax increase. So because some people are mad about deficit spending in Washington, programs in Kansas that deal with the most vulnerable get cut and cut and cut again.

Tale of Two Approaches

WICHITA, Kan. - Let's take a look at two alternatives in the so-called war on terror:

  1. You arrest a guy, put him on trial, take testimony from the people who saw what he did, get a slam dunk conviction and put him away until the end of time.
  2. You put him into the war-on-terror netherworld, disappear him, deny him access to legal representation, and - what the hell - water board him a few times for good measure. It is now impossible to convict him (impossible solely because of what you did to him) but you don't care about that: your intention is to put him away forever without any kind (or with the most circumscribed kind of) trial, and by the time the courts throw out what you did to him you won't be in office anymore and you can blame the people who have to pick up your mess as "soft on terrorism."

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