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On Maine Labor History Mural, US Department of Labor: “Put It Up Or Pay Up”

If Maine Gov. Paul LePage doesn’t wish to display a mural depicting the state’s labor history, then the U.S. Department of Labor wants back the federal money used to create it.

The department said Monday that LePage violated the terms of a federal grant that paid for most of the mural’s $60,000 cost when he removed the artwork from state offices last month.

The request for reimbursement came in a letter to state labor officials from Gay Gilbert, administrator of the U.S. Labor Department’s office of unemployment insurance. The letter was obtained by The Associated Press.

Gilbert’s letter is the latest twist in a growing national dispute over LePage’s decision to remove the 36-foot mural from the state Labor Department headquarters. LePage said it was biased towards organized labor at the expense of his pro-business agenda.

The removal has prompted a federal lawsuit against LePage and two others.

The mural, in place since 2008, depicts scenes that include a paper mill strike in the town of Jay, a strike at a shoe plant in Lewiston, women shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works and former U.S. Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, a native of Maine.

Adam Fisher, a spokesman for the Maine Department of Labor, said he did not have any immediate comment on the letter.

LePage’s removal of the mural attracted attention at a time when lawmakers in Wisconsin and other states are considering measures to restrict collective bargaining by public workers. Labor advocates, artists and others say the mural depicts an important part of Maine history and belongs at the state’s Department of Labor office.

LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said last week that the mural is in storage and awaits transfer to “a suitable venue for public display.” She did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the demand for repayment of federal funds.

The mural was created in large part with a federal grant that provided 63 percent of the cost of art work. Gilbert’s letter said the state must return 63 percent of the current fair market value of the mural, which could now be higher than the $60,000 it cost to create it.

“Alternatively, the state could again display the mural in its headquarters or in another state employment security building,” the letter said.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has not commented publicly on the mural dispute. Her spokesman, Carl Fillicio, said she “has monitored the situation and asked staff to look into it.”

LePage’s decision to remove the mural was prompted by an anonymous letter to the governor’s office — signed by “A Secret Admirer” — that said the mural was propaganda in line with “communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses.”

By: Associated Press, Bangor Daily News, April 4, 2011

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, GOP, Gov Paul LePage, Ideology, Labor, Maine, Politics, Republicans, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ineffective and Unfair: Conservatives Target Preventive Health Care for the Ax

It seems we’ve entered the season of shortsighted thinking. With 50.7 million uninsured Americans, Republicans are on a rampage to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Adding insult to injury, the most recent House Republican plan to cut the federal budget deficit this fiscal year took a scalpel to $10 billion in federal grants that provide health care to indigent women and children, slashing $2 billion in federal funding that is bound to have very expensive consequences.

Funding for community health centers will be cut in half by the Republican cuts. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who was a co-sponsor of the legislation responding to President George W. Bush’s call to expand funding for these centers in 2008, says that “since 2001, additional funding has allowed health centers in more than 750 communities nationwide to provide care to about four million new patients. These centers provide affordable and quality care to at-risk Americans who otherwise might have to do without.”

He’s right on the mark. No health care costs will be avoided by cutting this $1 billion out of the budget because the absence of care doesn’t stop you from getting sick. It simply means you get sicker and you turn up at the emergency room or a hospital when your illness has progressed to the point that your care needs are exorbitantly expensive.

On top of this cut to care, which more often than not is the safety-net care for women and children, the proposals would also cut the maternal and child health block grant by 30 percent. This block grant pays for child immunizations and prenatal care for tens of thousands of women and children. It’s obvious that without access to immunizations more will have to be spent to care for kids sick with easily preventable illnesses.

And reducing access to prenatal care is both life-threatening and costly. A preemie baby’s health care costs are 10 times higher than a full-term, healthy-weight child, according to the March of Dimes. The organization estimates that the full lifetime health care costs for these fragile children hit the $17 billion mark. It’s simply penny wise and pound foolish to cut $199 million out of a program that has a proven track record of delivering health to babies and driving down America’s health care costs.

Among the programs slashed is one of the most efficient programs to improve child nutrition: the Women, Infants and Children program run by the Department of Agriculture. This program gives expectant mothers with very small children important tips on how to feed their children healthy meals. And it provides them with coupons to incentivize them to purchase the best foods for their children. Research shows that without this intervention the nutritional intake of these children would be higher in fats, salts, and sugars, according to a recent U.S. Food and Nutrition Services study.

Instead of spending $1,400 a month in extra medical care for an obese child, for just $41 per month this program shifts these young mothers and children into healthy eating patterns, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clearly, the WIC approach is a useful and relatively cheap way to stem the rising tide of childhood obesity.

An unsurprising but equally shortsighted cut is the complete elimination of family-planning services. If you just listened to their sound bites, you would think these funds could be used for abortions. But we all know that’s not permitted. These federal funds make it possible for uninsured women and men to get access to critical contraceptive services, pregnancy counseling, and tests for sexually transmitted infections, cervical cancer screening, and other critical health screens. Without access to these health care services, the health care needs of these adults will not disappear.

Instead, these adults will end up with unintended pregnancies and preventable health conditions that could have been avoided had they had ready access to commonplace family-planning services and screenings. Indeed, every dollar spent on family-planning services saves taxpayers $4 in Medicaid-funded prenatal, delivery, and postpartum services alone, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute.

The absurdity of these cuts to the block grant, community health care centers, and family-planning services is that none of this funding would be necessary if we had a fully functioning national health care system where every American had access to high-quality care.

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Millions more Americans will lose access to health care as a result of these cuts and as a result more will have to be spent to address the real health care consequences of these cuts. Franklin also invented bifocals so his aging colleagues could see the important documents they gathered to draft. Perhaps the Republican leadership needs to adjust their glasses so they more clearly see that $2 billion in cuts they propose to the health care services for poor women and children will cost the taxpayers billions more in unnecessary health care expenses.

By: Donna Cooper, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, February 10, 2011

February 12, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Health Care, Health Reform, Uninsured | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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