After Paris, GOP fuels fear, phobia

After Paris, GOP fuels fear, phobia

In the wake of the Paris tragedy, Americans are being treated to a heavy dose of fear and phobia about anyone who is not the same color or ethnic origin as the Republican Party primary candidates.

Trying to piggyback on the public’s angst everyone from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz has a solution that would make America into an isolationist’s dream.

There aren’t too many people around these days who can recall the attacks on Jews in the 1930s and a variety of other ethnic groups over the years.

Every time there was a scandal or happening involving people with strange names or different colors, a group would emerge calling for an end to immigration and the building of an imaginary wall between America and the rest of the world.

On top of branding people “terrorists,” the would be presidents have a lot of other simple solutions for us to take.

Jeb Bush wants us to immediately put American soldiers on the ground in Syria.

He also favors a no-fly zone in that country. When he is asked whether that means America should shoot down Russian airplanes he fumbles for an answer.

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Giving Lobbyists a Bad Name, Unfairly

Giving Lobbyists a Bad Name, Unfairly

Many years ago, as a young boy, I first heard the word “scapegoat.”

Over a long period of time I have seen people make individuals or groups into scapegoats as a way of hiding their own sins.  Some politicians love to scapegoat so they can shift the blame away from themselves.

The current campaign of Donald Trump for the White House is built on freely using anyone or everyone he dislikes as scapegoats.

If you say something negative about Mr. Trump he automatically labels you as a loser or whatever expression crosses his mind.  He has already insulted the large voting bloc of immigrants and has had a few choice words for anyone who disagrees with him.

One of his more interesting targets are the lobbyists.  It seems that everything that is bad in Washington has been caused by the lobbyists.  To some extent that may be true.

There are countless stories in the media about how some new law was secretly drafted by lobbyists who sat in a Congressman’s office to do the foul deed. It is a known fact that many elected officials take their direction from lobbying groups, such as the National Rifle Association.

In defense of this much maligned profession, it should be clarified that not all lobbyists are evil and in many cases their work is critical to making sense out of the thousands of bills introduced in Washington and state capitols each year.  New York State is a good example.

Annually there are at least 10,000 bills introduced, many of which are going nowhere.

But buried in that large pile of proposals are hundreds, if not thousands, that will be voted on in the Senate or the Assembly, many in the closing hours of the legislative session.

If you think the average legislator reads each and every proposed law, you are giving your elected officials credit for something that just doesn’t happen. I confess that as a former chair of the Ways and Means Committee, I had a passing knowledge of thousands of bills.

That was partially due to the fact that many of the same bills, lovingly called “old chestnuts,” had been introduced year after year by different sponsors.

On many occasions some lobbyist pointed out to me that a bill would cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, even though the sponsor produced a memo saying that there was no cost involved.

Lobbyists are not just hired by rich people like Donald Trump. They are hired by non-profit institutions like AARP, Community Service Society, the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the Catholic Diocese.

While some of these groups have a very narrow agenda, they provide the legislators with information on the impact of a proposal, and even if you don’t agree, you learn something new about both sides.

I have come across some lobbyists who will bend the truth but sooner or later they will be unmasked and they lose their credibility.

By and large the vast number of these paid advocates work hard at their jobs and perform a great service.

What is mystifying about Trump’s bashing of lobbyists is the fact that he has been hiring his own team of lobbyists for many years.

Casino proposals in Connecticut, New York and Florida have either been supported or opposed by Donald Trump. I know that for a fact as once upon a time I was part of the Trump team.

Using a lobbyist is no sin, yet this time around all lobbyists are evil in the eyes of Mr. Trump.

Political campaigns these days tend to be overloaded with distortions and misstatements.

During campaign time almost anyone is fair game and can be made into a scapegoat.

The Bible has produced many memorable lines.

So in the bashing of lobbyists its worth reminding Mr. Trump about the admonition that “let he who hasn’t sinned cast the first stone.”

Small medical practices threatened

Small medical practices threatened

Many things are changing these days in the medical community and some of the changes are not very encouraging.

With each passing day some doctor, whether on Long Island,or anywhere else in America, decides to hang up their stethoscope and quit the practice of medicine.

Many years ago your neighborhood  family doctor would make house calls, have time for continuing education and at the same time raise a family.

But that was then and today many doctors are an endangered species. Insurance companies destroy medical practices with smaller and smaller reimbursements for services rendered to the point where a physician just can’t afford to take on more patients.

Officials in Washington were proud to advance the idea of sophisticated keeping of medical records and were convinced that it would be a great benefit to patients and physicians alike.

For many of the smaller practices the high costs of record keeping are another reason to shut the door and walk out.

Once upon a time, most doctors were willing to take patients whose only coverage was Medicare.

Today, with shrinking Medicare payments, doctors are forced to decide whether they can afford to take such patients.

A Long Island doctor will perform a procedure and be paid small change compared to a Manhattan doctor who will be paid much more by some health insurance company. And the size of those payments is constantly shrinking.

It is no secret that in Albany one of the strongest pressure groups is the trial lawyers, who have been very successful in stopping any legislation that would give the doctors some relief.

Having represented groups of local doctors I can provide many stories of how good legislation has been defeated by the trial lobby.

To add to the headaches of the doctors, the costs of malpractice insurance continue to rise and many experienced physicians have to decide whether it is still worthwhile to be in business.

New physicians who are not aware of these challenges while in medical school, are forced to quickly face the reality of staggering premiums.

In recent years I have noticed another new development.

Doctors who were trained in one specialty are deciding mid-career to move into another area of practice in order to survive. This may be good for survival but it also shrinks the number of doctors available for a particular specialty.

If you haven’t noticed lately, your local physician who was once an independent practitioner, is now an employee of one of the major hospitals in this region.

There is nothing wrong with doctors deciding to become an employee of a hospital, but in many cases it is because the local practitioner has given up being on his or her own.

One of the frequently suggested reforms that would help the medical profession is the idea that small groups of doctors should be allowed to form bargaining groups, just like unions, and be able to negotiate for better reimbursement rates.

The idea is a good way to give doctors some leverage but the health insurance companies have battled these and other similar proposals.

There is no question that the doctor you know and love has reached a tipping point. They must decide between giving up, fighting  to survive or joining a hospital as an employee.

Each individual takes for granted that their doctor is always going to be there but that’s not the case.

As each new law is passed and as each insurance company devises new reimbursement rates, doctors become another endangered species.

 

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Kremer’s Corner: National GOP no friend to GOP on L.I.

Kremer’s Corner: National GOP no friend to GOP on L.I.

I am not in the business of giving free advice to the Republican Party but somehow I can’t resist based on the current political climate in this country.

To say that the campaign for president is toxic is an understatement. But any local Republican running for office in 2016 can’t divorce them from the tone of the current national campaign, which could do enormous damage to the two party systems here at home.

I know the vast majority of the local Republican elected officials after many years of being on the political scene.

I consider them highly competent and people of good will. Every party has a few nut jobs,but overall the people who run our local governments are very dedicated and hard working.

2016 promises to be a very challenging year.

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Can’t Cuomo and de Blasio just get along?

Can’t Cuomo and de Blasio just get along?

After a careful review of the bestseller lists over the past 10 years, I’ve found over a thousand books advising people how to get along when they’re under stress. There have been 412 books on the art of negotiating (not counting Donald Trump’s) and they’re readily available to anyone in need of help or advice.

The continuing feud between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has a historic basis, which most people ignore. Over the past 65 years, there has been a lot of battling between mayors and governors. As a member of the State Assembly, I recall watching Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Mayor John Lindsay going at it on a daily basis.

Elected as a Republican, Lindsay eventually became a Liberal Party candidate, and the intense dislike between the two men was obvious to all. On one occasion, Lindsay was in need of help in Albany, and he asked Rockefeller to set up a meeting with the Long Island Assembly delegation. At the agreed-upon time, the mayor walked in, shook hands with the governor and, before we could all sit down, Rockefeller disappeared.

Life wasn’t any better with Gov. Mario Cuomo and Mayor Ed Koch. Neither man hid his dislike for the other, and there were few examples of any real cooperation between the two. The city did get mass-transit money and other benefits, but they were similar to the ones previously granted by other governors.

 

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