The WEP/GPO is pure theft.

A recent post on the federal laws that prevent teacher retirees in state pension systems from collecting their earned Social Security benefits got a lot of response.

As did the news that we teachers in a teacher retirement system lose all rights to Social Security spousal benefits if we outlive our spouses who collect Social Security.

Just one of the punitive aspects of the WEP/GPO is that a teacher is impacted by this provision in a most indefensible manner. The spouse will have paid a hefty amount into Social Security by his/her retirement age – likely well into six figures (and double that when allowing for the employer’s equal contribution). 

Should that spouse die, the surviving school teacher will receive not a single dime of the spouse’s contributions. Nothing.

Pure theft.

A Twitter response.

No offense to Massachusetts representative Richie Neal, but I’ve heard this before.

Illinois Republican congressman Rodney Davis (a fave of the Illinois Education Association) has also introduced legislation to do away with WEP/GPO.

But nothing happens.

It seems there has been a bill to eliminate the WEP/GPO around for at least 15 years with nothing to show for it.

Among the co-sponsors of one Republican-authored resolution are 77 Democrats, meaning the bill appears to have widespread bipartisan support. 

These bills collect co-sponsors like we collected baseball cards as kids.

But it never passes

Critical Race Theory. The new Red Scare.

Four administrators and one teacher – each one committed to a strategic diversity plan – have been fired from a private school, Sewickley Academy, in Sewickley, Pennsylvania.

They are the victims of the racist campaign to root out the latest fascist conspiracy, Critical Race Theory.

I’m reminded of the Red Scare of my youth.

The Red Scare of the 1950s hit very close to my home. But it was hugely damaging to the teaching profession.

In 1953, 378 New York City teachers were fired as part of the anti-Communist furor of the cold war, when invoking the Fifth Amendment became automatic grounds for termination.

Anti-communism isn’t quite the thing anymore, aside from our local Chicago alder Nicky Sposato, who warned that if the city didn’t put back the statue of Christopher Columbus, “the commies have won.”

Now the Republican Party of Trump is playing its race card using Critical Race Theory as a way to win back Congress in 2022.

As part of the campaign, school boards are being targeted if even a hint of truth about our nation’s racist history is even whispered in a classroom.

Banning books. Shredding curriculum. Firing administrators and teachers.

To some degree our teacher unions have fought back. But in my experience they’re not too good at this.

When a Right-wing Michigan group demanded that I be fired for being an activist union president, the Executive Director of the IEA, Audrey Soglin, told me straight up that I was on my own.

My work emails and personnel files were demanded under the Freedom of Information Act, and still my state union was silent.

What will they do if the witch hunters step it up several notches.

And they will.

It does no good to point out that Critical Race Theory is a field of study and isn’t commonly taught below graduate level education. Or to say (correctly) that the topic is being used to stand in for any teaching about race and racism and U.S. history that makes conservative white people uncomfortable.

In 1952 Irving Adler was a teacher, a Left winger at Straubenmuller Textile High School on West 18th Street in New York.

“I was teaching a class when the principal sent up a letter he had just received from the superintendent announcing my suspension, as of the close of day.”

Another dirty little secret about teachers and Social Security and how we’re punished.

A teacher colleague who I worked with for 15 years retired a few years ago. Last night she sent me an email with a question. 

She said she was telling a friend that if her husband died before her, as a teacher in the Teacher Retirement System, she received no Social Security spousal benefit. Her friend didn’t believe her and she was checking with me. I told her she was correct. 

If she died before him, he could collect half her teacher pension benefit but she got nothing from his Social Security if he died before her. 

This is one of those dirty little secrets about how teachers in a dozen or so states are punished by a federal pair of laws known as WEP/GPO. 

Let’s take my case. I worked in the private sector 20 years before teaching and paid into Social Security. But based on some formula, my Social Security benefit is reduced so that it barely covers my Medicare bill (in case you thought Medicare was free). And I am denied any of Anne’s Social Security benefits should she die before me, which I would receive if I wasn’t an Illinois teacher in a pension system. 

Ask your congressional rep and senators to explain it and why they have refused to change this punitive law. 

They won’t tell me. Maybe they will tell you.

Self-swabbing.

I received my first vaccination back in January. Second two weeks later.

I can’t believe getting a vaccination is an issue.

I follow CDC guidelines to the letter. I’ve always been obsessive about getting my shots. As a teacher it is too easy to get the flu when you see 500 kids a week. I missed it one year and got the flu. A bad case of it. Once, when I heard a teacher in our building had a case of the whooping cough, I was at the clinic as soon as the school day was over with a needle in my arm.

I’ve been nose swabbed six times before the vaccine. They were never pleasant experiences. I never imagined a stick could go that far up my nose.

So, night before last I woke at about 1AM feeling warm. I took my temperature and it was 100.1 and I was coughing. At 1AM every body ache seems worse. At 50 I had a heart attack at 1AM. So a low-grade fever at 1AM was certainly a case of break through Covid. I was convinced.

I left a my-chart message with my doctor and spent the rest of the morning binge watching a show on Hulu about a high school kid who came out as Gay.

I got thru five episodes when about 11, the doctor called me back. Take some Tylenol for the fever. Stay hydrated. And she said it would be a good idea to get a Covid test. There are a lot of viruses going around right now she said, partly because we have done such a good job of staying isolated. But the vaccine isn’t 100% and I probably didn’t have Covid and even if I did I would probably just feel shitty. I would want to know and not infect anybody else.

I made an appointment at CVS over on Southport. The diffference now is I had to stick the swab up my own nose. Ten swipes up each nostril. Not bad actually. Only an inch up the nose. And an hour later I got the results. No Covid. And this morning the fever is gone.

I wonder how the Gay kid is doing.

Can you see our schools from outer space?

When billionaire Jeff Bezos spent his ten minutes or so in space this morning, looking down on us. I bet it was a beautiful sight.

But Education Week describes what he couldn’t see from his seat in his personal space ship.

They polled teachers and administrators.

Thirty-one percent of principals and district leaders said leaking or old roofs are an urgent concern. 

Twenty-nine percent said the same about the poor condition of floors. Almost as many reported poor ventilation. 

Other issues that more than 10 percent of respondents said were urgent include deteriorating athletic fields and playgrounds, the lack of full accessibility for people with disabilities, insufficient security systems, cracked or drafty windows, overcrowding, crumbling foundation, and broken landscaping.

Nine percent of principals and district leaders said asbestos is an urgent concern; 8 percent cited insufficient, dangerous, or old electrical wiring; and 7 percent cited mold.

“The trailer I am currently teaching in is 50 years old and the walls and floors have been replaced numerous times due to rot and mold,” one teacher reported.

On Cuba Biden looks more like Trump than he looks like Obama.

When it comes to Cuba and Haiti, Joe Biden looks like Trump.

In the wake of protests in Cuba over lack of Covid vaccines, goods and services, many of us are talking again about ending the failed sixty-year embargo.

The shortages in Cuba are largely the result of the U.S. embargo and serve no good purpose. 

Continuing the embargo is neither in the interest of the United States nor Cuba.

Ending the embargo seemed to be where we were headed under the Obama presidency. There was increased travel and trade between the U.S. and Cuba.

In 2016 Obama led a delegation to Cuba including businesspeople and congressional leaders. The trip followed Obama establishing normalized diplomatic relations in 2014.

Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

That all ended with the Trump.

It is disappointing that when it comes to Cuba, Joe Biden appears to be more like Trump than he is like Obama.

Departing from a campaign promise, President Joe Biden said he will not reverse restrictions imposed by Trump. There has even been rumors of some kind of military intervention.

Rumors aside, the embargo continues.

Biden blames the the lack of democracy for the continued economic war on Cuba. But Biden’s hypocrisy is exposed by comparing his actions towards Cuba to his actions towards Haiti.

The government of the assassinated Haitian president Jovenel Moïse was as corrupt and undemocratic as they come.

The story behind his assassination is yet to be fully told.

But Moïse had the full support of the Biden Government as well as Trump before that.

The NY Times: 

As protesters hurled rocks outside Haiti’s national palace and set fires on the streets to demand President Jovenel Moïse’s resignation, President Trump invited him to Mar-a-Lago in 2019, posing cheerfully with him in one of the club’s ornate entryways.

After members of Congress warned that Mr. Moïse’s “anti-democratic abuses” reminded them of the run-up to the dictatorship that terrorized Haiti in decades past, the Biden administration publicly threw its weight behind Mr. Moïse’s claim on power.

And when American officials urged the Biden administration to change course, alarmed that Haiti’s democratic institutions were being stripped away, they say their pleas went unheeded — and sometimes never earned a response at all.

Through Mr. Moïse’s time in office, the United States backed his increasingly autocratic rule, viewing it as the easiest way of maintaining stability in a troubled country that barely figured into the priorities of successive administrations in Washington, current and former officials say.

Cheryl will gladly tell you that good dental health is key to our survival.

I’ve been getting dental maintenance from Cheryl for thirty years. 

It used to be paid for by our employer-based insurance. Medicare doesn’t cover it and so I pay out of pocket. We calculated the cost of crappy dental insurance on the private market and so we take a risk that nothing really bad will happen.

We will lose that bet.

My visits to Cheryl are more frequent now that I am older. Every four months rather than every six. 

Cheryl will gladly tell you that good dental health is key to my survival. And after my recent bout with kidney cancer, I need all the help I can get.

Medicare expansion would help the growing senior population. We often struggle with hefty out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee agreed Tuesday on a $3.5 trillion spending level for a bill to carry most of President Joe Biden’s economic agenda into law without Republican support. 

The bill would include one key item that wasn’t in Biden’s plans: vision, dental and hearing benefits for Medicare recipients, who are disproportionately those over 65 years old.

We can thank Bernie for that.

The bill would provide tens of millions of seniors — many of whom are low incomes — with care that we don’t currently have, likely boosting not only health spending but also freeing up money to go toward other goods and services, particularly essential goods. 

With 10,000 of us turning 65 each day Democrats hope the expanded coverage will also help provide them political wins.

The Republicans are hoping race baiting will give them control of the House. 

Medicare expansion is one good response.

“This would be a very significant change for Medicare,” said Tricia Neuman, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s program on Medicare policy, who said it would be the biggest change since the start of Medicare’s drug benefit in 2006. “How big an impact it will have will depend on the details of the proposals.”

Medicare expansion would increase Medicare spending by roughly $358 billion in the decade through 2029, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate of a previous similar proposal. 

Two-thirds of that would be for dental and oral health, the nonpartisan agency said. Government spending on this level would provide a boost for gross domestic product.

Dental care, which is closely linked to overall health, is one of the most expensive services. 

About 30 million of my brother and sister seniors haven’t had a dental appointment in the past year, according to Kaiser Family Foundation, including

A quarter of us over 65 years old have disabling hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

That includes me.

Those of us with hearing loss have much higher health costs and lower employment, said Amanda Davis, a senior adviser at AARP. For Medicare-aged beneficiaries those with hearing loss have been found to have less in savings and higher medical bills.

Hearing loss is estimated to cost those affected $297,000 over their lifetime, according to a study published in 2000 by the International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care. 

And the total national cost of first-year hearing loss treatment is projected to rise to $51.4 billion in 2030 from $8.2 billion in 2002, according to a 2010 study in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

When Emancipation came to Washington D.C. the slaveowners were paid reparations.

Slavery in Washington, D.C.

When Emancipation came to Washington D.C. the slaveowners were paid reparations.

It’s true.

What could be more – what? – ironic, given the current debate over reparations for the decendents of American enslavement?

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill emancipating enslaved people in Washington. But to ease slaveowners’ pain, the District of Columbia paid those loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed.

Slaveowners got reparations. Enslaved African-Americans got nothing for generations of slave labor.

Lincoln’s actions were important to the war effort because it was the first time that the federal government authorized abolition of slavery, predating the Emancipation Proclamation which we now celebrate as a national holiday on Juneteenth.

Lincoln hoped the freeing slaves in Washington offered concrete proof to the enslaved people in the Confederacy and those in the North that the Union was actually serious that the war was a fight for an end to the system of slavery and not just to preserve the Union.

But even Lincoln thought the slaveowners should be compensated for the loss of property. No matter that the property were human beings.

Not everyone thought paying reparations to slaveowners was a good idea.

 “If compensation is to be given at all,” the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said at the National Anti-Slavery Convention in Philadelphia in 1833, “it should be given to the outraged and guiltless slaves, and not to those who have plundered and abused them.”

In the United Kingdom, there was a similar story of reparations.

In 1833, Britain used 40% of its national budget to buy freedom for all slaves in the Empire.

The final cost of reparations to the slave owners wasn’t paid off until 2015.

Socialist Canada? Okay. But with vision and dental.

Expanding Medicare coverage to vision, hearing and dental would make all the difference in the world to those of us who are elderly.  Current out-of-pocket costs are simply not sustainable for the majority of us who have limited retirement savings and depend on Social Security or nothing at all.

Democratic Party leaders are at least giving lip service to a Medicare expansion plan and Bernie, who has been pushing for it all along, has given his approval to the leadership proposal.

The right-wing has gone bonkers.

Says the National Review:

“Though Medicare is in dire need of reform, Democrats say they want to add dental, vision, and hearing benefits to the program. This is such an incredibly irresponsible idea that even Canada, often touted as a generous socialist system, does not include vision and dental care in its universal care program. The idea that there is an urgent need to make our Medicare system more expansive than our socialist neighbor’s is absurd on its face, but it is an even worse idea when considering fiscal reality.”

Socialist Canada?

Hey. If by socialist Canada they mean Canada has a fairly rational national healthcare system, bring it on.

Nobody seems to be fleeing Canada for lack of a doctor’s appointment.

I have family and friends in this country who must wait months to see a doctor for anything less than an immediate life-threatening emergency. And then be billed an arm and a leg, no pun intended.

For those in the younger age group who may not be aware, Medicare is not free and is a very limited system in what it covers. Nearly everything short of catastrophic health care requires additional private paid-for coverage as do prescription drugs.

And dental, vision and hearing requires even additional coverage.

To be adequately covered costs thousands of dollars a year to a demographic group that cannot afford it. The average teacher pension in Illinois is $50 thousand dollars a year.

The folks at National Review argue that Medicare expansion is a step towards national healthcare like Canada.

I hope so.

With dental and vision.