Friday, November 11, 2011

Mental health budget cuts: South Carolina leads the nation

Mental health patients and their supporters rally against mental health cuts at the State Capitol, Columbia, S.C. February 2011

South Carolina is one of the poorest states in the country. The recession has dramatically increased the suffering there. More economic pressure means more people at risk of having mental health problems.

With cuts of over 39% to their budget for mental health treatment, South Carolina leads the nation. CBS News

More details on the massive public health problems in South Carolina.

South Carolina in top tier for cervical cancer deaths
Teen pregnancies, HIV and AIDS run rampant in South Carolina
South Carolina 5th highest in the U.S. for stroke deaths
South Carolina low overall health rankings
South Carolina ranks high for sexual assault

And yet, the conservative politicians that run the State like Senator Jim Demint and Governor Nikki Haley continue to push austerity and budget cuts.

Over 16% of South Carolinians have no health insurance while Demint flips on "Romney Care"
Nikki Haley flip flops on HPV vaccine 
Demint out to kill medicare for South Carolina seniors
Medicaid cuts threaten South Carolina's poor

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How anti-unionism keeps middle class weak in South Carolina and other "red" states

Jack Jones, Vice President and General Manager of Boeing South Carolina, at the dedication of the company's $950 million final assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C. on , June 10, 2011. The plant which received nearly $1 billion in State subsidies has become the poster child for GOP attacks against the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Photo: AP

New Census Data Shows the Importance of Unions to the Middle Class

By David Madland, Nick Bunker, Center for American Progress  | September 23, 2011

New state income data released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the importance of unions to boosting incomes for all middle-class households—union and nonunion alike. The 2010 income data makes it clear that strong unions are a critical factor in creating a middle-class society. Restoring the strength of unions would go a long way toward rebuilding the middle class.

The states with the lowest percentage of workers in unions—North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Texas—all have relatively weak middle classes. In each of these states, the share of income going to the middle class (the middle 60 percent of the population by income) is below the national average, according to Census Bureau figures.

Mapping the Census data that has been released this fall to previous years also shows that over time the strength of the middle class and the strength of the union movement have tracked closely together. In 1968, the share of income going to the nation’s middle class was 53.2 percent, when 28 percent of all workers were members of unions. Since then, union membership steadily declined alongside the share of income going to the middle class. By 2010, the middle class only received 46.5 percent of income as union membership dropped to less than 12 percent of workers.
Minneapolis police battle Teamsters union rank and file in 1934 truckers strike. This strike and similar strikes and organizing drives across the country led to the passage of the National Labor Relations Act. Today Republican politicians like South Carolina's Jim Demint and Nikki Haley are determined to return to the days when labor disputes were decided in the streets.

As unions weaken so does the middle class

As unions weakened, the lion’s share of the economy’s gains have gone to the wealthy. The share of pretax income earned by the richest 1 percent of Americans more than doubled between 1974 and 2007, climbing to 23 percent from 9 percent. And for the richest of the rich—the top 0.1 percent—the gains have been even more astronomical. Their share of income quadrupled over this period, rising to 12.3 percent of all income from 2.7 percent.

Without strong unions, the middle class has lost out to the wealthy.

Read the rest of the story from the Center for American Progress

Learn more about poverty and South Carolina's anti-union policies
Boeing vs. NLRB: follow the money and influence
The NLRB's case against Boeing
South Carolina Govenor Haley pledges to keep wages low and South Carolina union free
South Carolina 12th poorest state in the U.S.A.
Senator Demint on collective bargaining for public employees

Monday, September 26, 2011

South Carolina Republicans favor tax hike to fix deficit despite what Jim Demint and his Tea Party congressional delegation believe

Poll: Raising taxes is an option for S.C. GOP voters
By Adam Beam  The State (Columbia, S.C.)

S.C. Republican and Republican-leaning voters do not want cuts to Social Security, Medicare or defense — but they might be willing to pay more taxes to help balance the country’s budget, according to a new poll from Winthrop University.
Parris Island Marine base near Beaufort, South Carolina could be one of many federal facilities in the State that could suffer under Federal budget cuts.

Seventy-three percent of S.C. Republicans who receive Social Security and Medicare benefits say they are not willing to cut those programs in order to balance the budget.

And Republicans now working, who don’t yet receive those benefits? More than half say they still are not willing to see their future benefits cut or the retirement age raised.

More than half also say they do not want to see defense spending cut.

Those three federal programs – Social Security, Medicare and defense – make up 53 percent of the 2012 proposed federal budget with its $3.8 trillion in spending, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. (Also, off the table, presumably, is the $434 million the federal government will pay in interest on the federal debt.)

But if those programs can’t be cut, what can be done to balance the federal budget?

One option, at least for S.C. Republicans, is to raise taxes.

Read about how and why Jim Demint, Tea Party and South Carolina GOP politicians put politics and the Tea Party agenda before South Carolina's interests

Sunday, September 25, 2011

South Carolina legislators' rig pensions-salary scheme to far exceed normal standards

South Carolina State Senator David Thomas decries excessive government spending except when it comes to his own excessive compensation

By Thomas Frank, USA TODAY

At age 55, South Carolina state Sen. David Thomas began collecting a pension for his legislative service without leaving office.

Most workers must retire from their jobs before getting retirement benefits. But Thomas used a one-sentence law that he and his colleagues passed in 2002 to let legislators receive a taxpayer-funded pension instead of a salary after serving for 30 years.
“Taxes are too high and spending is out of control.” Every candidate for office will say these words, but no one in Congress is willing to take a stand to cut taxes and reduce government spending.  As your next representative in Washington I will work tirelessly to reduce governmental waste, fraud and abuse of your hard earned tax dollars. --- South Carolina David L. Thomas (from his Congressional campaign website)
Thomas' $32,390 annual retirement benefit — paid for the rest of his life — is more than triple the $10,400 salary he gave up. His pension exceeds the salary because of another perk: Lawmakers voted to count their expenses in the salary used to calculate their pensions.

No other South Carolina state workers get those perks.

Since January 2005, Thomas, a Republican, has made $148,435 more than a legislative salary would have paid, his financial-disclosure records show. At least four other South Carolina lawmakers are getting pensions instead of salaries, netting an extra $292,000 since 2005, records show.

Read the rest of the report from USA Today

More about how money twists the actions of South Carolina's Republican politicians
Who owns Jim Demint?
Money and clout behind the Boeing-NLRB controversy
Nikki Haley's rewards friends while spending for South Carolina's working people
South Carolina 6th worst managed state in the USA
Taxpayers foot the bill for Haley's Parisian "party"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

South Carolina cervical cancer deaths in top tier despite average case rate

Statistics point to lack of coherent public policy regarding HPV vaccine and overall public health disaster in South Carolina

South Carolina ranks 20th out of the 50 states for cervical cancer rates. At a rate of 7.9 cases out of every 100,000 women this puts South Carolina in line with the overall national population. (Source: U.S. Center for Disease Control)

What is particularly disturbing is that the DEATH RATE for South Carolina's women from cancer of the cervix is the 6th highest in the nation after Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky and tied with neighboring Georgia, Alabama and Texas. (Source: National Cancer Institute)

According to the Kaiser Family foundation, "Nearly all cervical cancer is caused by 10 to 15 high-risk types of a common sexually transmitted virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV)."
Maybe South Carolina's Gov. Nikki Haley and Senator Jim Demint could learn something from Rick Perry's Texas when it comes to fighting cervical cancer.

In light of the recent Republican debate over public HPV vaccination programs, it is interesting that Rick Perry's Texas which has a much higher rate of cervical cancer cases than South Carolina (9.7 out of 100,000 or No.2 out of the 50 states) has obviously made some progress in fighting this life threatening disease.

High rate of sexual assaults put South Carolina women at greater risk of HPV and other STD infections
Skyrocketing HIV, STD and teen pregnancy rates plague South Carolina
Strokes, infant mortality and a host of other serious health problems haunt South Carolina

Haley's false drug use claims about unemployed admitted

Gov. Nikki Haley admits exaggerated claims about drug use among unemployed applicants at the Department of Energy's Savannah River nuclear facility which happens to be just a few miles upstream from Allendale County, the 10th poorest county in the United States

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has admitted that she has no evidence backing her claim that half of job applicants at a local government facility flunked a drug test. She'd used the claim to push for requiring the jobless to pass a drug test to be eligible for benefits.

But the GOP rising star persists in drug testing for recipients of unemployment insurance benefits. Read the Huffington Post article.

"I so want drug testing, I so want it." Hear Nikki Haley lie about drug test results at Savannah River nuclear facility.  With less than 2% of job applicants typically failing drug tests is the Governor pandering for votes or pursuing sound fiscal management?
"I so want drug testing. I so want it," Haley tells the Lexington Rotary Club. Read our post and see the video 
South  Carolina: 4th highest for joblessness in America
Take a tour of Allendale, South Carolina, poorest county in the State just downstream from the D.O.E Savannah River site

Haley flip-flopped on HPV vaccine: South Carolina girls less likely to receive it

Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) -- As the debate over Texas Gov. Rick Perry mandating the HPV vaccine continues between Republican presidential candidates, a woman whose endorsement is coveted by all them, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, has her own complicated history on the issue.
HPV virus leads to warts and can also cause deadly oral, cervical, vaginal or anal cancers.

In 2007, shortly before Perry issued an executive order requiring that schoolgirls be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, or HPV, that causes most cervical cancers, Haley was throwing her support behind a similar bill in South Carolina. At the time she was in her second term as a state representative.

State Rep. Joan Brady introduced the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act in South Carolina, and the Republican corralled more than 60 legislators, including Haley, to sponsor the bill. Unlike the executive order for which Perry is taking heat, this legislative mandate did not include a provision for parents to opt out of inoculating their daughters.

Within months, fierce opposition mounted, and legislative records back up accounts from sources who recall sponsors "dropping like flies" before a unanimous vote killed the bill on April 18, 2007.

More than a dozen legislators formally requested to be removed as sponsors from the bill, but the future governor of South Carolina was not one of them.

More on HPV vaccine controvery: Rick Perry, Michele Bachman and the GOP Presidential primary race from CNN

Why South Carolina needs a pro-active effort to protect girls from killer HPV virus

South Carolina ranked 6th in nation for cancer of cervix deaths
South Carolina teen age girls more vulnerable to HIV, other STD's and teen pregnancy
Sexual assault rates higher than average in Nikki Haley's South Carolina
Gov. Haley's budget cuts threaten progress on teen birth rates in South Carolina
Cuts to S.C. medicaid program mean fewer HPV vaccination for South Carolina girls
Lack of health insurance, poor education two reasons why S.C. ranked 46th out of 50 states for health

HPV Vaccine Information For Young Women - Fact Sheet from U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Two vaccines are available to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV) types that cause most cervical cancers. These vaccines are Cervarix (GlaxoSmithKline) and Gardasil (Merck). One of the HPV vaccines, Gardasil, also prevents genital warts as well as anal, vulvar and vaginal cancers. Both vaccines are given in 3 shots over 6 months.

Why the HPV vaccine is important
Genital HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some time in their lives, though most will never even know it. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. There are about 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of men and women. Most HPV types cause no symptoms and go away on their own. But some types can cause cervical cancer in women and other less common cancers— like cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, and vulva (area around the opening of the vagina) and oropharynx (back of throat including base of tongue and tonsils). Other types of HPV can cause warts in the genital areas of men and women, called genital warts. Genital warts are not a life-threatening disease. But they can cause emotional stress and their treatment can be very uncomfortable. Every year, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,000 women die from this disease in the U.S. About 1% of sexually active adults in the U.S. have visible genital warts at any point in time.

Which girls/women should receive HPV vaccination?
HPV vaccination is recommended with either vaccine for 11 and 12 year-old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series; HPV vaccine can also be given to girls beginning at age 9 years.

Will sexually active females benefit from the vaccine?
Ideally females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV. Females who are sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine, but they may get less benefit from it. This is because they may have already gotten one or more of HPV types targeted by the vaccines. However, few sexually active young women are infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines, so most young women could still get protection by getting vaccinated.

Can pregnant women get the vaccine?
The vaccines are not recommended for administration to pregnant women. Although studies show that HPV vaccines do not cause problems for babies born to women who received HPV vaccination when pregnant, more research is still needed. A pregnant woman should not get any doses of either HPV vaccine until her pregnancy is completed.

Getting the HPV vaccine when pregnant is not a reason to consider ending a pregnancy. If a woman realizes that she got one or more shots of an HPV vaccine while pregnant, she should do two things:

Wait until after her pregnancy to finish the remaining HPV vaccine doses.
Call the pregnancy registry [800-986-8999 for Gardasil or 888-452-9622 for Cervarix]. These pregnancy registries help us learn more about how pregnant women respond to each of the vaccines.

Should girls and women be screened for cervical cancer before getting vaccinated?
Girls and women do not need to get an HPV test or Pap test to find out if they should get the vaccine. However it is important that women continue to be screened for cervical cancer, even after getting all 3 shots of either HPV vaccine.

Effectiveness of the HPV Vaccines
The vaccines target the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer. One of the vaccines also protects against the HPV types that cause most genital warts. Both vaccines are highly effective in preventing specific HPV types and the most common health problems from HPV.

The vaccines are less effective in preventing HPV-related disease in young women who have already been exposed to one or more HPV types. That is because the vaccines can only prevent HPV before a person it is exposed to it.  HPV vaccines do not treat existing HPV infections or HPV-associated diseases.

How long does vaccine protection last?
Research suggests that vaccine protection is long-lasting. Current studies (with up to about six years of follow-up data) indicate that the vaccines are effective, with no evidence of decreasing immunity.

What does the vaccine not protect against?
The vaccines do not protect against all HPV types— so they will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccines, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests). Also, the vaccines do not prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So it will still be important for sexually active persons to lower their risk for other STIs.

Will girls and women be protected against HPV and related diseases, even if they don’t get all 3 doses?
It is not yet known how much protection girls and women get from receiving only one or two doses of an HPV vaccine. So it is very important that girls and women get all 3 doses.

Safety of the HPV vaccine
Both vaccines have been licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for females aged 9 through 26 years and approved by CDC as safe and effective. Both vaccines were studied in thousands of people around the world and vaccine safety continues to be monitored by CDC and the FDA. These studies showed no serious safety concerns. Common, mild adverse events reported during these studies include pain where the shot was given, fever, dizziness, and nausea.

Fainting can occur after any medical procedure, including vaccination.  Recent data suggest that fainting after any vaccination is more common in adolescents. Falls and injuries can occur after fainting. Adolescents and adults should be seated or lying down during vaccination.  Sitting or lying down for about 15 minutes after a vaccination can help prevent fainting and injuries.

More than 35 million doses of HPV vaccine have been distributed in the United States as of June, 2011.  Almost all doses distributed have been Gardasil.

Why is HPV vaccination only recommended for women through age 26?
HPV vaccines are licensed and recommended for females through age 26 years.  Vaccination would have the greatest benefit when administered to girls. As in trials in younger women, a clinical trial of quadrivalent vaccine in women >26 years found the vaccine to be safe. This study also showed that the vaccine was effective in women without evidence of existing or past infection with HPV vaccine types. However, the study demonstrated no protection against disease in the overall study population. Neither vaccine is licensed in the United States for use in women over the age of 26 years.  Although women over age 26 years are not recommended to receive HPV vaccination, they should have cervical cancer screening as currently recommended.

What about vaccinating boys and men?
The quadrivalent vaccine is also safe and effective for males ages 9 through 26 years. It is licensed by the FDA for prevention of anal cancer and genital warts.  Since October 2009,  the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s guidance has been that the 3-dose series of quadrivalent HPV vaccine may be given to males aged 9 through 26 years to reduce their likelihood of acquiring genital warts.   The vaccine is not routinely recommended for administration to males.

Cost and Paying for the HPV vaccine
As of July 18, 2011, the retail price of the vaccine is about $130 per dose ($390 for full series).

Is HPV vaccine covered by insurance plans?
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don't have insurance, or if it does not cover vaccines, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help.

How can I get help paying for HPV vaccine?
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native or have no health insurance. "Underinsured" children who have health insurance that does not cover vaccination can receive VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers. Parents of uninsured or underinsured children who receive vaccines at no cost through the VFC Program should check with their healthcare providers about possible administration fees that might apply. These fees help providers cover the costs that result from important services like storing the vaccines and paying staff members to give vaccines to patients. However, VFC vaccines cannot be denied to an eligible child if a family can’t afford the fee.

What vaccinated girls/women need to know: will girls/women who have been vaccinated still need cervical cancer screening?
Yes, vaccinated women will still need regular cervical cancer screening (Pap tests) because the vaccines protect against most but not all HPV types that cause cervical cancer. Also, women who got the vaccine after becoming sexually active may not get the full benefit of the vaccine if they had already acquired HPV.

Other ways to prevent Cervical Cancer
Regular cervical cancer screening and follow-up can prevent most cases of cervical cancer. The Pap test can detect cell changes in the cervix before they turn into cancer. Pap tests can also detect most, but not all, cervical cancers at an early, treatable stage. Most women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. have either never had a Pap test, or have not had a Pap test in the last 5 years. There are HPV tests that can tell if a woman has HPV on her cervix, but the HPV tests on the market should only be used to help screen women at certain ages and to help health care providers assess women with certain Pap test findings for cervical cancer. These tests can be used with the Pap test to help your doctor determine next steps in cervical cancer screening.

Are there other ways to prevent HPV?
For those who are sexually active, condoms may lower the chances of getting HPV, if used with every sex act, from start to finish. Condoms may also lower the risk of developing HPV-related diseases (genital warts and cervical cancer). But HPV can infect areas that are not covered by a condom—so condoms may not fully protect against HPV.