Letters to the Editor: March 4, 2015

Medicaid expansion

I can’t believe that we are still talking about this in 2015, but the Missouri legislature still has not expanded Medicaid. Each time I speak to legislators opposed to the effort, they respond with either misinformation or outright lies. One even told me that as long as the current president is in office, he will continue to oppose Medicaid expansion. Regardless of your opinion of the president, the fact is that Medicaid expansion will not only benefit those who will receive services, but everyone in Missouri as well. 

Here is what we know:  Medicaid eligibility in MO is currently 18 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL), meaning that a family of three that makes over $3,600/year cannot get health insurance. This is not OK. People are dying. The people who fall into the Medicaid gap (too “rich” to qualify for Medicaid, too poor to afford insurance on the exchange) are hardworking people, often holding two or three jobs. The Missouri legislature has the opportunity to expand Medicaid to cover Missourians up to 138 percent of the FPL so that a family of three could make up to $27,000/year and be eligible for health insurance. Though there have been champions of the effort in the majority party, most of its members refuse to budge.

Expanding Medicaid would also save Missouri money — more than $81 million initially, increasing to more than $100 million annually in later years through cost savings alone. It would bring more than $2 billion of our tax dollars back to our state. It would prevent rural hospitals from closing, which results in job cuts. For those who are worried that the federal government will fail to uphold their commitment of reimbursement, that has never actually happened. And it’s easy to put a clause in the legislation nullifying Medicaid expansion if for some odd reason it does happen. Please talk to your legislators and urge them to expand Medicaid in the 2015 session.


Jennifer Bernstein, Director of Advocacy and Communications, Central Reform Congregation

Reaction to Giuliani

As a Jew, I was appalled at Rudy Giuliani’s statements that questioned President Barack Obama’s  love of the United State.  Jews know from history what it means to have their loyalty and social acceptance questioned. Is Obama a critic of America as Giuliani claims?   Of course.  Every other president has also been a critic and offered ideas to solve problems. 

Obama  has made countless statements on the exceptionality of the United states, including:   “In No other Country is my story possible.” In a speech at West Point, Obama said: “I believe in American Exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”   Is he more humble then other presidents  about our imperfections as a country?  Yes he is.  He has brought more civic humility to the national conversation.

Giuliani  questioned Obama’s  upbringing and claimed he was not raised in the same way as the rest of us (meaning white, of course).  He then cited the same arguments promoted by shameless conspiracy theorists like Dinesh  D’Souza and Glen Beck  who claim Obama has socialist, communist and Islamic influences (meaning foreign). 

Adjectives to describe the irresponsible statements by Giuliani  include:   shameless, disgraceful, hateful, and polarizing.  His  innuendos are a form of “McCarthyism”  

aimed at our first black president.  Can you imagine a leading figure in American political culture questioning the patriotism and loyalty of other presidents.  The answer is no.  It is not  an exaggeration to say that Giuliani  has offended most African Americans at a moment of serious racial tension in our country.  This is a strange expression of patriotism and love of country.

The journalist, Ta-Nehisi-Coates says it best:  “Barak Obama governs a nation enlightened enough to send an African American to the White House, but not enlightened enough to accept a black man as president” 

Dennis Lubeck, Ph.D., History Education Consultant

Response to Rochester commentary

Martin Rochester’s recent declaration (Feb. 11) “that the First Amendment has been perverted, as freedom of religion … into freedom from religion”’ demonstrates his misunderstanding of the First Amendment and the importance of the separation of church and state to this country’s history and success. The separation wall has been protecting our country from undue official religious influence since the Bill of Rights was written and we must be ever vigilant to protect this principle for all citizens. 

Rochester does not understand that this country is far from promoting “freedom from religion” by not recognizing an official state religion. People are free to worship in their own homes, public and non — public venues wherever and however they please, as long as the government, representing all taxpayers from  religious and non-religious backgrounds, does not endorse the worship. 

Supporting religions with public money is as undemocratic and dismissive of individuals’ rights as prohibiting citizens from worshiping privately. Puzzling is the fact that the author seems to believe that the atheist worldview is a concern in this country and uses criticism of Christmas as evidence. Perhaps he is unaware of the large number of public schools and institutions during the holiday where Christmas is clearly being celebrated, and for weeks before the holiday. 

Moreover, presidential candidates are openly quizzed about their religious affiliations and there are numerous lawsuits being fought all over the nation arguing that community meetings, city halls, etc. lead sessions with prayer. Rochester also writes that it’s the atheists alone who support the separation of church and state. Had he researched the assertion, he would have found that  the local St. Louis Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State includes a Baptist minister as former president and the board represents a variety of religious and ethical backgrounds. The current national executive director, Barry W. Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. Understanding this country’s history and precepts, as well their impact, would have contributed to the accuracy of Rochester’s  commentary.

Helene Sherman, Cynthia Holmes, Hal Harris, Rudy Pulido and Mary  E. O’Reilly

Netanyahu’s speech

I have the deepest admiration and respect for both Speaker of the House John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. That said, however, I feel that the Speaker was wrong when he recently invited Netanyahu to speak before Congress, while at the same time taking umbrage with Netanyahu for accepting the invitation.

It wasn’t just the fact that President Barack Obama was not consulted nor given any heads-up before the invitation was extended that incurred my wrath, but the fact that any such invitation should have been made at the request of the president. 

Not only was this an unprecedented action initiated by the Speaker, but even worse, a gross violation of all the rules of protocol and etiquette, not to mention a complete lack of respect for the president or his office.

I note that this is not a partisan issue, as many members from both parties have expressed their opposition to Boehner’s invitation and Netanyahu’s acceptance. Even such luminaries as Michael Oren, the former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, and Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, voiced their displeasure. 

Furthermore, in a recent poll, almost two-thirds of the American public, together with about forty-seven per cent of the Israeli people have decried Netanyahu’s proposed speech before Congress. 

It’s no secret that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a cold personal relationship with each other — a great deal of it having to do with their differences regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Netanyahu’s speech before Congress is sure to drive the two leaders even farther apart.

If the Likud Party is victorious in the March 17 Israeli elections and Prime Minister Netanyahu retains his office, the president and the prime minister will have to find some way to get along with each other for at least the next two years.

Gene Carton, Olivette