Thursday, July 24, 2014

Medicare Turns 49

On July 30th of this month Medicare will turn 49 years old.  Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Medicare was the answer to health care insurance for elderly Americans.  Americans 65 or older were provided hospital and medical insurance as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935.  19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect a year later in 1966.  President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare's first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card.  President Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at that time by Congress.

At its creation, Medicare consisted of two parts.  Medicare Part A hospital insurance coverage, which was financed by payroll deductions and charged no premium to those who had contributed, and Medicare Part B an optional medical insurance program for which enrollees paid a monthly premium.

Medicare's first beneficiaries paid a $40 annual deductible for Part A.  The monthly premium for Part B, in which Truman did enroll, was $3.  As of June of 2013 the cost is $1,184 for the annual Part A deductible and a premium of roughly $105 a month for Part B, plus a $147 annual deductible.

Today, nearly 50 million Americans, 15 percent of the nation's population, depends on Medicare for their health insurance coverage.  With increasing life expectancy and more "Baby Boomers" turning 65 every day, the number of people on Medicare is expected to double before 2030.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Beatles and The Cultural Shift

There was a cultural revolution in the 1960s.  It was probably the biggest and fastest change in the way the youth in America dressed, wore their hair, music they listened to, and rebellious attitude towards "The Establishment," meaning the older generation and the government.  The Beatles were just the beginning of the shift.

On February 7, 1964, Pan Am Yankee Clipper flight 101 from London Heathrow landed at New York's Kennedy Airport, and "Beatlemania" arrived.  It was the first visit to the United States by the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll group that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. hit six days before with "I want to Hold Your Hand."  The "Fab Four," dressed in mod suits along with their trademark bowl haircuts, were greeted by 3,000 screaming fans who caused a near riot when the group stepped off the plane.

Two days later, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, and George Harrison made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which was aired in black and white.  The audience was packed with screaming teenage girls and made it hard for the estimated 73 million television viewers to hear their performance.  Sullivan immediately booked the Beatles for two more appearances that month.  The group made its first public concert appearance on February 11 at the Coliseum in Washington, DC with 20,000 fans in attendance.  The next day, they gave two back-to-back performances at New York's Carnegie Hall, and police were forced to close off the streets around the music hall because of chaotic fan hysteria.  On February 22, they returned to England.

The Beatles' first American tour left a major imprint on the nation's cultural memory.  From the big band music of the early 1950s through Doo Wop in the middle of the decade into the Rockability of the late 50s, teenagers of the mid 60s were poised to break away from the more rigid landscape.  The Beatles, with their new sound and good-natured rebellion, were the perfect catalyst for the shift.

Their singles and albums sold millions, and at one point in April 1964 all five best-selling U.S. singles were Beatles songs.  By the time they released their first feature film, "A Hard Day's Night," Beatlemania was epidemic the world over.  In August 1964, the four boys from Liverpool returned to the United States for their second tour and played to sold out arenas across the country.

The Beatles gave up touring to concentrate on their innovative studio recordings, such as 1967s Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, a psychedelic concept album that is regarded as a masterpiece of popular music. The Beatles' music remained relevant throughout the great cultural shifts of the 1960s, and critics of all ages acknowledge the songwriting genius of the Lennon-McCartney team.

In 1970, the Beatles left a legacy of 18 albums and 30 Top 10 U.S. singles to pursue solo careers.

As a side note... This author saw the Beatles on September 22, 1964 at Memorial Auditorium in Dallas, Texas. We could barely hear because of all the non-stop screaming. I am not sure we will ever see anything like "Beatlemania" again.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Draft and Vietnam

In January of 1977, President Jimmy Carter granted an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War.

In total 100,000 draft aged Americans went abroad in the late 1960's and early 70's to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.  Ninety percent went to Canada.  Others hide out in the US and Europe.  In addition to those who were "draft-dodgers," a relatively small number of about 1,000 were deserters.  Others were labeled "Conscientious Objectors."

A total of 209,517 men were formally accused of violating draft laws, while government officials estimate another 360,000 were never formally accused.  If they returned home they would have faced prison sentences or forced military service.

President Carter's decision generated a great amount of controversy.  He was heavily criticized by veterans' groups and others for allowing "unpatriotic lawbreakers" to get off scot-free.  The pardon and companion relief plan came under fire from amnesty groups for not addressing deserters, soldiers who were dishonorably discharged or civilian anti-war demonstrators who had been prosecuted for their resistance.

Although today, when reaching the age of 18 all males must register with the Selective Service, many people born after 1975 are not familiar with the draft and what it meant to young men and their lives.  From 1948 until 1973, during both peacetime and war, only men were drafted to fill vacancies in the armed forces which could not be filled through voluntary service.  All men between the ages of 18 and 26 had to sign up with the Selective Service, also known as, the"United States Draft Board".

A lottery drawing, the first since 1942, was held on December 1, 1969 at the Selective Service National Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  This event determined the order of call for the induction year of 1970. All registrants born between January 1, 1944 and December 31, 1950 were in the drawing.  This lottery differed from the 1942 lottery as the oldest were not called up first.  It was determined by the order that the dates were pulled.

With radio, film and TV coverage, the capsules were drawn from a jar.  The first capsule drawn was the date of September 14, so all men born on that date in any year between 1944 and 1950 were assigned lottery number 1.  The drawing continued until all days of the year had been batched to lottery numbers.  If you were number 1 you were going.  Number 365 would probably never see service.  The lowest numbers were drafted first.

If the draft were held today, it would be dramatically different from the one held during the Vietnam War.  A series of reforms during the latter part of the Vietnam conflict changed the way the draft operated to make it more fair.  If a draft were held today there would be fewer reasons to excuse a man from service.

Before Congress made the changes to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree.  Under the current draft law, a college student can have his induction postponed only until the end of the current semester.  A senior can be postponed until the end of the academic year.  Today a man would spend only one year in the first priority for draft, either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended.  Each year after that he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group, and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly.

Women are still not required to register with the Selective Service, but this could change with the new policy of allowing women to serve in combat arms specialties.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Beginnings And Wrapping Up Old Ones

The New Year is the time for new beginnings and wrapping up old ones.

The New Year was 1789, and the first election for President of the United States was held from Monday, December 15, 1788 to Saturday, January 10, 1789.  It was the only election to take place partially in a year that was not a multiple of four.

On January 7, 1789 the first President of The United States was elected.  At the time there were no real political parties.  Candidates were either Federalists, meaning they supported the ratification of the Constitution, or Anti-Federalists, meaning they opposed ratification.  In reality both sides were united in supporting George Washington as president.  The only real issue to be decided was who would be chosen as vice president.  Under the system then in place, each elector cast two votes.  If a person received a vote from a majority of the electors, that person became president and the runner up became vice president.  All 69 electors cast one vote each for Washington.  Their other votes were divided among the other eleven candidates.  The candidates were:  George Washington, Independent; John Adams, Federalist; John Jay, Federalist; Robert H. Harrison, Federalist; John Rutledge, Federalist; John Hancock, Federalist; George Clinton, Anti-Federalist; Samuel Huntington, Federalist; John Milton, Federalist; James Armstrong, Federalist; Benjamin Lincoln, Federalist; and Edward Telfair, Anti-Federalist.  John Adams received the most votes of the eleven candidates and became George Washington's vice president.

In 1804 the Twelfth Amendment was ratified requiring each elector to cast distinct votes for president and vice president.

With the thought of new beginnings and wrapping up old ones, here are a couple of quotes to start the New Year.

"Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."  Carl Bard

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover." Mark Twain

Friday, November 22, 2013

Proof Of The First Thanksgiving

Before the arrival of the Pilgrims and Puritans the Wampanoag people gave thanks, feasts, and ceremonies for the Creator's gifts of a successful harvest, hope for a good growing season in the spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child.

In 1621, after a year of sickness and scarcity the Pilgrims along with the Wampanoag tribe, gave thanks to God and celebrated His bounty with feasting and celebration.  To these people of strong Christian faith this was not merely a feast, but a joyous outpouring of gratitude.  E.W. Winslow, a Pilgrim and later Governor of New England who had lost his wife to the elements in the new land, wrote a letter to his friend in England saying, "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors.  They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week.  At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming among us, and among the rest their greatest king, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.  And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty...These things I thought good to let you understand that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favourable with us."

In 1622, Winslow's letter was printed in a pamphlet that historians commonly call Mourt's Relation. Winslow's and William Bradford's accounts were written between November 1620 and November 1621. They described in detail what happened from the landing of the Pilgrims at Cape Cod, their exploring and eventual settling at Plymouth, to their relations with the surrounding Indians, up to the first Thanksgiving and the arrival of the ship Fortune.  Mourt's Relations was first published in London in 1622 by George Morton. This publication of the first Thanksgiving was lost during the Colonial period and rediscovered in Philadelphia around 1820.  Because of Winslow's letter historians have long contended that it was the first Thanksgiving celebrated in America.

The holiday changed as the strictly held customs of the Puritans of the 17th century evolved into the 18th century's more cosmopolitan New Englander.  By the 1700's the emotional significance of family united around a dinner table over shadowed the civil and religious importance of Thanksgiving.  As the people began to migrate westward New England's holiday traditions spread to the rest of the nation.  It was not until 1941, under the leadership of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Congress established the 4th Thursday of November as the national Thanksgiving holiday.

We at National Write Your Congressman wish you all a very blessed Thanksgiving 2013.