Letters

Letters 10-27-2014

Paging Doctor Dan: The doctor’s promise to repeal Obamacare reminds me of the frantic restaurant owner hurrying to install an exhaust fan after the kitchen burns down. He voted 51 times to replace the ACA law; a colossal waste of money and time. It’s here to stay and he has nothing to replace it.

Evolution Is Real Science: Breathtaking inanity. That was the term used by Judge John Jones III in his elegant evisceration of creationist arguments attempting to equate it to evolutionary theory in his landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education decision in 2005.

U.S. No Global Police: Steven Tuttle in the October 13 issue is correct: our military, under the leadership of the President (not the Congress) is charged with protecting the country, its citizens, and its borders. It is not charged with  performing military missions in other places in the world just because they have something we want (oil), or we don’t like their form of government, or we want to force them to live by the UN or our rules.

Graffiti: Art Or Vandalism?: I walk the [Grand Traverse] Commons frequently and sometimes I include the loop up to the cistern just to go and see how the art on the cistern has evolved. Granted there is the occasional gross image or word but generally there is a flurry of color.

NMEAC Snubbed: Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) is the Grand Traverse region’s oldest grassroots environmental advocacy organization. Preserving the environment through citizen action and education is our mission.

Vote, Everyone: Election Day on November 4 is fast approaching, and now is the time to make a commitment to vote. You may be getting sick of the political ads on TV, but instead, be grateful that you live in a free country with open elections. Take the time to learn about the candidates by contacting your county parties and doing research.

Do Fluoride Research: Hydrofluorosilicic acid, H2SiF6, is a byproduct from the production of fertilizer. This liquid, not environmentally safe, is scrubbed from the chimney of the fertilizer plant, put into containers, and shipped. Now it is a ‘product’ added to the public drinking water.

Meet The Homeless: As someone who volunteers for a Traverse City organization that works with homeless people, I am appalled at what is happening at the meetings regarding the homeless shelter. The people fighting this shelter need to get to know some homeless families. They have the wrong idea about who the homeless are.

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The Face of Poverty in Northern Michigan

Robert Downes - February 19th, 2004
To be poor in Northern Michigan often means being hidden in plain sight. Thanks to organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army, we don‘t have poverty-stricken people walking around in rags, as is the case in less fortunate countries. Even the poorest among us can manage to keep up appearances.
But beneath the surface, it‘s not hard to find some very sad cases at agencies such as Father Fred‘s Foundation and the Community Health Center in Traverse City, or at the Manna Project in Petoskey.
Janet Day is one such woman, locked in a desperate struggle with bills and health problems on a limited income. Janet was one of the featured speakers via a video link at a recent Poverty in Our Midst summit meeting in Traverse City.
A 71-year-old grandmother, Janet is a Traverse City native and a veteran of the Korean War. She presently lives in a mobile home with five other people, including two elementary school-aged children whom she is raising. Janet is disabled, and her income totals just $1,095 per month, or a little more than $13,000 per year. Consider that the government‘s definition of poverty for a family of three comes to just $13,290 per year, and you can see that Janet is struggling below even that level.
Of the $1,095 she receives per month, each dollar must be carefully accounted for and worried over to meet the $1,042 she has in bills. “It‘s awfully hard because the bills keep going up, but my income doesn‘t,“ she said. “The kids say, ‘Why can‘t we go to a movie or the mall?‘ And I have to tell them, honey, I just don‘t have the money. It hurts, it really hurts. Since I can‘t work and I‘m disabled, the bills are paid and the lights are on, but I can‘t afford anything extra.“
What‘s missing from this story is the painful look on Janet‘s face and her voice quivering with emotion as she spelled out the calculus of what it means to be desperately poor in Northern Michigan.
And she is hardly alone, because as noted at the summit, single female heads of households are three times as likely to be living in poverty here, followed by men raising children.
There were plenty of statistics on poverty at the summit, which was attended by 250 representatives of help agencies from around the region. In a five-county area here, some 10,493 people were living at the poverty level as of the 2000 census -- close to 7% of Northern Michigan‘s population. That means living on an income of less than $17,029 for a family of four, or less than $8,501 for a single person.
Those problems are exacerbated as our country drifts deeper into the so-called jobless economic recovery.
Dr. Carl Benner, M.D., director of the Community Health Clinic, noted that there is now a three-week waiting list to get in the clinic for free or low-cost health care, and that many patients are being turned away from private medical practices in town because of their inability to pay. The health care crisis is especially grave in the lack of dental services for the poor, because although physicians have formed a Grand Traverse Regional Healthcare Coalition to try to fill the gap in medical care, there are no low-cost or free dental services available and Medicaid recently ditched its dental benefit. If you have an abscessed tooth and you‘re broke, your only recourse may be to take an emergency room antibiotic until you can raise the funds to get help.
“We‘re one of the richest countries in the world, but the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee health care for its citizens,“ Dr. Benner said, adding that the current level of 43.6 million Americans without health insurance is expected to rise to 60 million by 2010.
The summit brimmed with similar unhappy statistics on housing costs, homelessness, the loss of 1,000 manufacturing jobs in the region since 2000, and families of the working poor who‘ve had the rug pulled out from under them. On the bright side, Jim Wiesing of the Michigan State University Extension pointed out that poverty in America tends to be a fluid, transitional thing, influenced by temporary factors such as divorce, childrearing and unemployment.
Those who attended the summit were invited with the goal of reducing poverty in the region by 25% by 2010. At first that struck me as rather fanciful and utopian thinking. We don‘t live in a closed, static system like a fish tank, after all. There will always be factors such as more poor persons moving into the region and downturns in the national economy to waylay the best-laid plans. More likely, Traverse City and Petoskey will “solve“ poverty the same way Boulder, Colorado has with its urban growth boundaries -- property rates will rise so high that only the wealthy will be able to live here, with the poor stuck in trailer parks many miles out of town.
That‘s one scenario. On the other hand, it could well be that today‘s middle class will increasingly move in the direction of what‘s called the working poor -- a condition most Americans knew very well when our country launched the so-called War on Poverty in the 1960s. The War on Poverty has subsquently been pooh-poohed as a failure by the wealthy end of the political strata, even though its many initiatives such as Head Start, school lunch programs, HUD, student aid, affirmative action and the like lifted millions of Americans out of malnutrition and into college and their first homes.
Perhaps we‘ll all be poorer soon, renewing a more caring and thoughtful political philosphy in our country which will promote universal health care and higher education rather than the selfish “me first“ attitudes which have been so prevalent over the past 20 years. Misery loves company, after all. Perhaps the poverty summit in Traverse City is the renewal of that way of thinking, right here close to home.
 
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