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Recent editorials from Georgia newspapers:

March 2

Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune on health care:

Greater Romans, not generally being aware of some of the brightest positive events in their history, probably just thought — as many Georgians appear to — that Gov. Nathan Deal's latest cure for what ails health care is just plain weird.

Basically, he proposed that federal law be changed so that hospital emergency rooms no longer have to treat some of those without any ability to pay, unless bleeding profusely or in active labor. Let's grant he didn't mean to sound a "just let them die" tone for others. To some extent he may have, in a rather inarticulate manner, been suggesting a variation on "take two aspirin and call the emergency room in the morning."

However, there is no avoiding the diagnosis that this was heavily about making political noise, as emergency-room access is a long-established federal mandate over which he has no control or influence.

Indeed, the very next day he sounded support for the rebel battle flag displayed on the vanity car-license plates of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The governor, facing a re-election campaign, must be showing far more poorly on internal Republican Party polls than the general impression that he is a shoo-in if he feels he must shore up his support among the "anti-freeloader" and "flagger" portions of the electorate. He could have, more wisely, just kept his mouth shut rather than stir up old war horses long ago put out to pasture.

And, on local turf though few may know it, this Bad Samaritan stance was a direct insult and attack upon one of this community's finest moments. What is today Floyd Medical Center exists only because, almost 75 years ago, this county's citizens/taxpayers created it precisely and specifically so all residents could access medical care even without an ability to pay and with no questions asked.

What began as 79-bed Floyd Hospital opened in 1942. The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act requiring hospital emergency rooms to examine, diagnose and stabilize — not necessarily hospitalize — anyone claiming injury or illness regardless of ability to pay or their citizenship was not adopted until 1986. It is that which Deal advocates making more optional, seemingly ignoring that what a patient has, and how serious it might be, cannot be determined without the expertise of doctors and their tests.

Basically, what is now Greater Rome's largest single employer — and somewhat amazingly still operates without direct local tax funding — came to be through the efforts of Dr. W.H. Lewis, then a Harbin physician and well aware of the deaths and permanent crippling among those unable to access medical care due to financial reasons.

He ran for County Commission as head of a candidate slate committed to the single issue of taxpayers building a hospital that would treat any and all, no financial questions asked, because it simply was the Christian thing to do. The hospital was not to be free (it competed with three private hospitals present at that time) but rather the profits directed, as now, to serving the homeless and poor. Those were an even-larger percentage of the population then — the days of the Great Depression — than now. ...

Deal made little news while in Congress before leaving, a hop and skip ahead of an ethics investigation, to seek the governorship, but in what headlines he made then he is simply being consistent now. He even then opposed such "unfunded mandates" as caring for the poor in emergency rooms. He couldn't convince colleagues on this point then, even though he was the "ranking member" of the House Health Committee — meaning if he had stayed there he would today be chairman of that panel and the primary GOP spokesperson on all things Obamacare.

He has even less ability to convince Congress now, making bringing up this aspect appear even more political in nature.

Nor are his opponents, and many voters, likely to miss the point that the new health-care law indeed puts Good Samaritan hospitals in a financial jam because it reduces federal cash for indigent care — because such funds are to be replaced with the expansion of Medicaid ... in which Deal and state Republicans have refused to participate.

That this places the governor and his party in a difficult position — another rural Georgia hospital, the fourth in a year, announced it would have to close this past month — is undeniable.

Whether the correct response, and winning platform, is to argue that some fellow citizens should simply be denied medical care seems a pretty rickety one — and perhaps especially so in Greater Rome, where a solution was approved by voters even before Deal appeared on the scene. Floyd Hospital actually opened the same year the governor was born.

Addressing this issue some 20 years ago, in 1994 at a time when Floyd Medical's core service mission was being called into question by other forces for other reasons, on this page the point was made that caring for those unable to afford it was "the ideal of how a society was supposed to function. Floyd Countians agreed to accept, as all Americans are today being asked to accept, the principle that caring for the health needs of one's fellow humans is an obligation of civilization."

In a free society, the governor and others remain at liberty to disagree, to take a more bottom-line and perhaps uncivilized position.

Way back in the 1930s, in this community at least, it was determined that such a viewpoint was a sickness in the head.

That diagnosis has not changed.



March 3

Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on President Obama and the crisis in Ukraine:

Russian leader Vladimir Putin essentially declared war over the weekend, seizing Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and thumbing his nose at the European Union and the United States.

It's essential that President Obama and other Western leaders don't give this bully an opening.

Action — not rainbows-and-butterfly rhetoric — is necessary.

Putin is one of those tough guys who only respects other tough guys. While the Russian leadership manufactured this crisis, the West must not roll over like a kitten.

More than the future of Ukraine hangs in the balance. So does the balance of world power.

This is a critical time in history. Putin has already outmaneuvered President Obama on the Syrian crisis. If the U.S. and its allies are perceived as all bluster and no action on Ukraine, it will embolden Russian aggressiveness toward other former members of the Soviet bloc that Moscow covets.

Iran is sure to have second thoughts about dismantling its nuclear program. China will be encouraged to play a stronger hand in the Far East.

Secretary of State John Kerry is expected in Kiev today to show U.S. support for Ukraine's shaky new leadership. Kerry's trip is necessary. But it's not going to make the Kremlin shake in its boots either.

Much stronger steps are necessary to force the Russian bear back into his cage.

First, the U.S. and the European Union must consider strong economic sanctions. Russia's economy depends on the West as a lifeline. Even the threat of retaliation for the Crimean seizure is taking a toll on the value of Russia's ruble, which is dropping like a stone. Moscow may have more boots on the ground in that region. But tightening the squeeze on banks and trade will turn up the heat from the ground up on Russia's leaders.

Militarily, the options are limited. But Obama isn't powerless and can show that Putin's bully-boy tactics have consequences.

He could order U.S. ships from the Sixth Fleet in Europe into the Black Sea. The Navy's newest Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS George H.W. Bush, left Norfolk, Va., two weeks ago for the Mediterranean. Send it to the eastern end of that sea and closer to Putin's neighborhood.

Much is being made of pro-Russian sympathizers in eastern Ukraine and in Crimea, as if that justifies Russian's belligerence. But these areas supported Ukrainian independence in 1991. Putin knows this. That's why he's exploiting the weak government in Kiev and making his move to regain control. ...

You can't fault Putin if he views Obama as a pushover.

The U.S. president drew a "red line" on Syria. Then he proved he didn't mean it.

Obama asked Russia to return NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Moscow is still chuckling.

Mitt Romney warned on the campaign trail that Putin couldn't be trusted. Obama mocked his Republican foe for rekindling the Cold War.

The president infamously told a top Russian leader in 2012 that he would have "more flexibility" on missile defense after the presidential election. Moscow licked its chops.

Obama must end his retreat from leadership. European leaders who have more to fear about the Russian bear must join him. Otherwise, the freedom-loving people of Ukraine won't be the last ones to potentially lose what they hold dear. Instead, they will be the first of many.



March 4

The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle on tea party:

The testament to the strength of the tea party movement is that its mere mention still causes liberals to cringe.

It's hard to believe it's been five years.

That's how long a peaceful yet consistently vocal organization of Americans has been fighting for our nation's return to rational economic policy and limited government - as envisioned by our Founding Fathers.

Seemingly overnight, groups mobilized nationwide to speak out against high taxes and high spending, and about how it's high time our elected officials turn their reckless behavior around if America is to be saved.

It's worth looking back to the first shot that started the grassroots revolution. Many people agree it began Feb. 19, 2009, on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where CNBC reporter Rick Santelli launched into a spontaneous but erudite rant on the Obama administration's mortgage bailout proposal announced the previous day.

In what Santelli calls "professionally the best five minutes of my life," he suggested the economic stimulus was "promoting bad behavior" by rewarding people in foreclosure for buying homes they knew they couldn't afford at the height of the housing bubble instead of looking out for those who lived responsibly.

"I'll tell you what, I have an idea. You know the new administration's big on computers and technology. How about this, (Mr.) President and new administration," Santelli shouted. "Why don't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages, or would we like to, at least, buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people who might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water, instead of drink the water?"

Traders on the floor around him began to cheer and shout.

Santelli made a throwaway comment about having a tea party protest in Chicago - and with that, the movement coalesced around the patriotic theme. Within days, concerned citizens staged dozens of heavily-attended protests across the country.

Now here we are five years hence. The tea party's members and their ideas for turning America around have not gone away, though liberal mainstream media likely wish every day that they would.

It seems like every left-leaning talking head with access to a microphone has taken a slanderous shot at the tea party in the past five years. One CBS reporter even went as far as to compare good-hearted tea party patriots to the foot soldiers of radical Islam.

The latest roundup of Sunday-morning TV talk shows barely sniffed at the tea party's anniversary. Credit ABC for at least inviting two Republicans to put things in perspective on This Week with George Stephanopoulos. One of them was Rich Lowry of National Review:

"This new generation of conservatives who were brought into the Senate because of the tea party," Lowry said. "Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz - these are people (who) will have an impact for decades."

CBS didn't mention the anniversary at all. National Public Radio missed acknowledging the anniversary, even though it made sure to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street in 2012.

You remember Occupy. You might better recall its protesters' recurrent chaos and lawlessness than the fizzling movement's actual warped views on social and economic inequality.

But the tea party, now five years old, still is standing for meaningful issues and fighting for our country's future.

And it's always looking for new recruits.


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