Category Archives: Newsletter

DUI

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to post some of the articles that I have written for the Urban News over the past several months. Let me know what you think. –

dui

It is time for us to get serious about drinking under the influence. We continue to treat this problem as if it were a college prank. It ain’t. We are talking about life and death. It is a privilege to drive a car, not a right. I believe that cars are a necessary part of being an American. There are only a few places in this country in which you can get around without a car. Everywhere else, you need a car; therefore, you need to adhere to the rules that each state has which govern who can drive a car.

A 20-something with 2 small children in his pickup truck is driving too fast on his way to Wal-Mart. His reflexes are impaired from his daily usage of methamphetamines. He doesn’t see the red light, or he believes that he can just run it. Halfway through the intersection, he slams into the driver’s side door of a Mini-Cooper. The 53-year-old mother of two is sitting in the front passenger’s seat, She is wearing a seat belt, but is killed instantly. What makes matters worse is that this killer was arrested 18 months earlier for driving under the influence when he hit several park cars. No one was injured in that crash. How many times does he have to kill or injure someone before we understand that cars can be used as deadly weapons when the wrong person is behind the wheel?

In 2013, over 32,000 people died on American roads. 32,000 is a lot of people. The good news is that we drive safer cars and more and more of us are surviving crashes. Alcohol is estimated to be involved in somewhere between 50 and 90% of motor vehicle crashes. This doesn’t include other mind-altering substances like methamphetamines, oxycodone, Valium, anti-depressants or any of a number of other drugs that dull the senses and slow the reflexes.

Trauma Surgeons, like me, have been trying to get the American public NOT to say “motor vehicle accident.” An accident is something that really can’t be prevented. A toddler running with a drink in his/her hand will spill it. That really isn’t preventable. As long as toddlers have drinks in their hands, they will spill. On the other hand, driving a car is different. There should be some thought going into the basic operation of a motor vehicle. Sometimes, we are driving too fast for the conditions. Sometimes we aren’t paying attention. Before you back up, you check your mirrors and look behind you before you backup. Right? I think that automated cars will be great help. They will be doing all of the basic “thinking” for us. Many of the crashes that we see today will be eliminated. Unfortunately, none of us can go and buy a Google car tomorrow. (I think that the Google Car will be great for some of us who have some issues will reflexes and eyesight.)

Ethan Couch is the boy who has been labeled by the media as suffering from Affluenza (being given too much by his parents). Couch was 16 years old when he was involved in a motor vehicle crash. He killed 4 people and injured 2 others. His alcohol level was a sobering 0.24, 3 times the legal limit. The judge thought that this was some type of minor offense. Ethan got no jail time. He got 10 years’ probation. What is that? If I drove my car across the judge’s lawn, I promise you he would give me more than just probation. Now, Ethan is back in the news because he is running from the law after having been caught on video drinking at a party. Can someone do the right thing and throw this guy in jail?

Look, there are tons of injustices in our society. There are some things that we really can’t figure out. This isn’t one of those situations. If you believe in justice, then folks who take mind-altering substances and then drive a car deserve to be thrown in jail for a good, long time. If we lean toward “being nice” and allow these folks to go scott-free, then aren’t we saying that the lives that were stolen had no value? To me, life is a gift and should be valued.

Clearing the Air

(I wrote this last month for the Urban News. Enjoy.)

I was all ready to follow up last month’s article with another one on the economy. I was going to spend a good deal of time revealing through solid data that austerity does not work. We can not cut our way to prosperity. In short, the Austrian austerity folks are wrong, as I’ll explain more next month. But for now, I would like to clear the air and address some of the lies, rumors, and misstatements that are dominating the news media.

Birtherism and Racism
A few weeks ago Mitt Romney “jokingly” stated, “No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we (my wife and I) were born and raised.” Mitt Romney’s statement got me thinking: Why would Barack Obama be hounded about his birth certificate and Mitt Romney isn’t? Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama had fathers who were born outside of the United States. Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are highly educated. They both obtained advanced degrees from Harvard University. Yet, for some reason, it is okay to openly question Barack Obama’s origins, while it is automatically assumed that Mitt Romney was born right here in the good old USA. Is it impossible to believe that a black man could be born in this country, educated in this country, and rise to become President of the United States?

Our Bloated Government
Just the other day Sen. Rand Paul asserted that one of the reasons our economic recovery has been so slow is that we have a bloated government. According to this Kentucky optometrist, there are just too many people on the government payroll. This story plays into the Republican mantra – (paraphrasing Ronald Reagan’s famous line) that “The Government Is the Problem.” The truth is, if the government were to keep growing at the same rate it grew under George W. Bush, we would have 1.5 million more government employees. Just this simple act alone would push the unemployment rate below 7%. Over 600,000 government employees (federal, state and local) have been laid off during the Obama administration. This is a fact. A huge number of those layoffs have occurred in “red” states, where Republican legislators and governors slashed budgets and eliminated tens of thousands of teachers and other public employees – then, having deliberately increased their state unemployment rates, they blame President Obama and the Democrats in Congress for the loss of jobs. Continue reading Clearing the Air

Killing the Economy Without Even Trying

Massive protests in Wisconsin are entering their third week. In my opinion, unions are in a battle with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for the future of the middle class. On one hand, Governor Scott Walker states that the state of Wisconsin is broke. In order to get their fiscal house in order, they must balance the budget and cut the size of government. Among the budget-cutting proposals, and the most controversial, is Governor Walker’s proposal to end collective bargaining among public workers.

On the other side of this titanic argument sit the Wisconsin unions. The unions have unequivocally stated that they’re willing to take salary cuts but are not willing to give up their right to collective bargain. So the unions have met Governor Scott Walker more than halfway and yet we still have an impasse. Who’s right?

The governor claims that the great state of Wisconsin has a $137 billion shortfall. As it turns out, the governor passed an approximately $140 million tax giveaway to special interest groups. This should sound familiar. Republicans like to cut taxes but they don’t pay for themselves. The Bush tax cuts did not pay for themselves. Reagan’s tax cuts did not pay for themselves. Why should Governor Walker’s tax cuts pay for themselves? The real crime appears to lie in the fact that Governor Walker wants to pay for his tax cuts by asking workers to sacrifice more. As I’ve chronicled, time and time again, the middle class is been squeezed like never before. The middle class continues to face increasing expenses (utilities, housing and education costs) and stagnant or decreasing wages.

This is part of a conservative agenda which started decades ago. Conservatives use the government to enrich their friends (tax cuts to the rich). Conservatives have never liked unions because unions support, for the most part, Democrats. So, Governor Scott Walker is only following the conservative playbook, which advocates enriching your friends and punishing your enemies.

Wisconsin is simply a microcosm of what’s happening on the national level. Currently, the House Republicans are insisting on somewhere around a $60 billion budget cut because “America is broke.” I don’t understand. How is it that we can be broke when we just gave the rich tax cuts in December? These tax cuts were not paid for. How can we afford tax cuts when we’re broke? Remember that Republicans successfully argued that we were in the middle of a recession and increasing taxes would slow economic growth. Using the same logic, spending would spur economic growth. Then wouldn’t cutting $60 billion slow economic growth? Of course it will. (Slowing the economic recovery also has the side effect of making Democrats look ineffectual and therefore decreasing the chance of Obama’s reelection.) Government spending equals approximately 25% of our GDP. Economists estimate somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000 jobs will be lost by $60 billion in discretionary spending.

America is looking at a $1.25 trillion deficit. Republicans continually point to this number and hope that Americans will reel at its size. The conservatives want you to be flabbergasted. But when you look at the number in its proper context it is not as large as it seems. We are a country of over 300 million people. Therefore, if every man, woman and child forks over $4000, the budget deficit is solved. $4000. That’s it. Not $40,000 or $4 million, we are talking about $4000 per person to prevent cutting programs that help the poor, like the low-income heating energy assistance program (LIHEAP) and Head Start. If we just look at those tax cuts, which were passed in December, the average millionaire is reaping over $100,000 in tax cuts. If we just require those who have benefited the most from our stable economic environment to simply pay their fair share, we could fix the budget in no time.

Conservatives are using a ginned up “financial crisis” in order to push through their agenda, which is destroying unions and killing government spending on social programs. This is a full-blown attack on the American Way of Life. We should and must take to the streets like they are in Madison, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Democratic Party has started a petition to recall eight of Wisconsin’s Senators in accordance with the Wisconsin Constitution. If the Democrats win three of these eight seats, the balance of power shifts in the Senate. This is direct democracy. This is the way that we take back our government from corporate special interests who have the undivided attention of our politicians.