Madison County Opinion...

JUNE 2, 2004


Column
By Frank Gillispie
The Madison County Journal
June 2, 2004

Frankly Speaking

What would be a good name for UGA if it can’t be ‘UGA?’
Are you as sick of the squabble between the University of Georgia and its fundraising foundation as I am?
These are supposed to be the academic elite of our state. Yet they are fussing like a group of six-year-old children.
Now we hear that the Georgia Board of Regents has ordered UGA to severe all contact with the Foundation. But that creates a problem because the Foundation has the copyrights to the schools name.
“The University of Georgia may loose its name,” screamed the headlines.
That gives us a chance to have some fun by considering alternate names for the university.
What would be a good name for Georgia’s top university if they can no longer be called the University of Georgia?
Georgia State University is already taken. In fact, I can’t think of any appropriate name using “Georgia” that some other institution is not already using.
We could go with the city and become Athens University.
But that would fail to indicate the institute’s state-wide status. That would boost the ego of the oligarchy that runs Athens and they have too much ego already.
That leaves the state’s nicknames. We could call it “Peach State University” but then the mascot would be a worm sticking its head out of a peach.
Georgia is known as “The Empire State of the South.” If we use that and name the school “Empire State University,” the mascot would likely become Napoleon. We already have too much trouble with the French to do that.
That leaves one more choice.
Georgia has been called “The Cracker State” for the drivers of cargo laden wagons being pulled by teams of mules. The driver would keep the mules moving by “cracking” a whip over their heads.
The mule would not be an appropriate mascot because West Point already uses a mule. We would be left with jackasses as our mascots. The way the leadership of the university and its fundraising foundation has been acting recently, that might be appropriate.
On second thought I wish to withdraw that last suggestion. First, “Crackers” is another term for “Rednecks”, and rednecks are far too practical to become involved with the kind of bickering that typifies the relationship between the university and its foundation.
Secondly, I would not wish to push such an insult on jackasses.
What we need to do is convene a conference made up of the leadership of the University of Georgia, the UGA Foundation and the Board of Regents.
We should bring in a self-educated Redneck to serve as chairman, and keep them in session until they work out all these petty problems.
Something needs to be done.
This kind of squabbling between the state’s educational elites is an embarrassment to all of us.
Frank Gillispie is the founder of The Madison County Journal. His e-mail address is frankgillispie@charter.net. His website can be accessed at http://frankgillispie.tripod.com

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Column
By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
June 2, 2004

In A Moment with Margie

System can leave our loved ones behind
Some things in our lives seem pure. For me, the memory of the last supper my grandmother cooked for her family late in 1993 is one such purity. We ate a fried chicken dinner knowing that the next day Grandma would have surgery to remove a large tumor from her brain.
Grandma, known to the world as Myrtle Cofield Mitcham, knew that it could be her last act. And so she cooked for her children and grandchildren as she had countless times before. She was a selfless person, a comforter, whether with food or kind words. And I think of that hot kitchen, the smell of cornbread, the refrigerator we pillaged and her pencil marks by the basement door where she measured her grandkids' increasing height, noting our name and the date next to the thin line.
I think of Grandma rubbing her wet hands on her apron, preparing that final meal with the great unknown of brain surgery only hours away. For me, that last supper she cooked represents such a beauty of heart. It is true tenderness. And it is horribly sad to think of the rope of time that stretches between that last act and everything she's been through in the 11 years since.
Every family has its sorrow. Ours is certainly not unique in that regard. But Grandma's surgery was a profound family tragedy. It robbed her of herself. Nearly 11 years later, she is still in a nursing home some 45 minutes from here, but she can't really comprehend her family. And while the loss of a loved one is so sad, there is something particularly cruel about someone still being alive but gone, too. I think of her children — my father, my uncle, my aunt — and know there is such hurt, which truthfully, cannot be talked about without a painful tearing at something deep inside. So our family rarely, if ever, talks directly about that hurt. And I understand that. We all do.
Instead, the focus has been on quality care. And this is largely an economic matter.
To receive such care, Grandma had to be drained of all of her assets before Medicaid benefits kicked in. Her house was sold and the funds went to her nursing home expenses.
This seemed sad, too, still does, and many families avoid this by putting all assets in the name of the children when the health of an elderly parent begins to fail.
We all know the cost of care is astounding. And Grandma's nursing home expenses far exceed the approximately $1,790 she receives in Social Security per month, which is just over $20,000 per year. Her check is larger than average, because she worked most of her life and my grandfather worked over 50 years at a cotton mill. So they donated quite a bit of money to the Social Security fund and she now gets a decent check. But all of that monthly check goes toward the nursing home expenses, which are thousands of dollars more than her Social Security money. Still, the difference has been picked up by Medicaid.
But, apparently, not anymore.
My father received a letter last week informing him that because of state budget cuts the elderly with over approximately $1,690 a month in income are no longer eligible for nursing home coverage under Medicaid. So Grandma, who was drained of all assets to become eligible for Medicaid, is suddenly too rich — by about $100 a month — to qualify for Medicaid benefits because she receives $1,790 a month in Social Security.
Many in our culture believe that trimming social programs is like cutting away needless fat. Speak of government aid and many immediately think of crack-addict moms trying to live off government welfare. Many look at such examples and preach self reliance. I agree. Able-bodied folks ought to work for their money.
But those who seek to cheat the system compose only a certain percentage.
What about the percentage of folks like my grandmother? She is disabled, but for many years she was middle class, honest, hard working and selfless, showing a generous heart to both her family and community. There are so many legitimately hurting folks who once gave and gave of themselves, but who are now in her position. Should we be eager to cut them off, saying it's for a greater good? And should the children of the elderly, many of whom, like my father, are now in their retirement years, be saddled with $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 a year to keep a mom or dad in a nursing home? Wasn't the 30 percent of their income given up in taxes every year to the government supposed to insure them against such an indignity?
This is not just a crisis of the poor. This is not as simple as some crack addict mooching off the system. This is a middle class crisis. Nobody in our family has ever been on the dole. Yet, our family cannot afford to pick up a payment of $30,000 to $50,000 a year.
Some say the private sector can be relied upon to care for such folks and to cover their expenses. But is a private entity, a church, or some other well-meaning organization going to be able to pick up such a large bill for the many people like my grandmother, who can offer no return on the investment, other than a kind smile?
That's quite doubtful.
We're always so angry at the government for wasting our tax money. I am too. But so many people look only at the low end, because that's the easy side to see — government funds thrown to those who misuse our hard-earned cash on getting drunk or high.
But many forget that government aid is showered on the rich end too. Why don't we preach self reliance to corporations receiving enormous government subsidies? You certainly can't write off corporations as all bad. To do so is clearly wrong in a simple-minded way. But it's equally simple-minded to deny that some companies work hard to cheat the system by pushing for needless government subsidies and by charging the government $10 million when $4 million is appropriate.
There is always a big picture to economic hurt. It's shown in percentages, in headlines, in punditry.
But there is a ripple effect that goes on and on, becoming harder and harder to follow, unless, of course, you're in its path.
And for many we may never see or consider, the impact is a tidal wave. Many in our middle class are being pummeled now by our skyrocketing health care costs and an increasingly harsh system that cuts good folks off on budget technicalities.
If we consider social programs as an economic scapegoat, we must consider the ripple effect in the lives of individuals — the foster kids who may be affected by lowering funding, the grandmothers who may lose their room in a nursing home.
To act as if number crunching in social program budgets is a sanitized, nobody-gets-hurt process of trimming fat...
Well, that is purely wrong.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.


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