Happy holidays America?

The Defense Department announced on Dec. 5 their plans to cut personnel and programs, amounting to almost $500 billion, that could come into effect if Congress and the White House fail to reach a deal to avoid the double hit on tax hikes and automatic spending cuts, referred to by the 'fiscal cliff'.In a statement released to the Associated Press, the Pentagon said they are looking at how they would implement those cuts, which roughly would be about 9.4 percent across the board. Pentagon officials stated the potential cuts would force the department to throw out its new military strategy. Cuts to the department could also affect spending on weapons and technology programs as well as how the military provides for its troops. A report released at the end of November, quoting the US Treasury Data Chart Statistics from April 2012, indicated the debt by the public was approximately $11.476 trillion or about 72% of GDP. As of July 2012, $5.3 trillion or approximately 48% of the debt held by the public was owned by foreign investors, the largest of which were China and Japan at just about $1.2 trillion each. So what does this really mean to us America? Downey? Well, in plain terms, the national debt equates to $44,900 per person U.S. population, or $91,500 per member of the U.S. hard working population. These are the figures each one of us and our children are responsible for. So increasing our debt, lowers our GDP, makes our currency weaker in world markets and if the largest debt we have is "owned" by foreign investors, what does that mean for America? The higher our debt means we begin to chip away at our Autonomy and Strength as the World's Super Power. Sadly, continued cuts across the board loom in the horizon. The federal government has also announced a 30% reduction in the country's Hospital Preparedness Programs that are funded through the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). These programs were put into effect shortly after 9/11 to strengthen our preparedness, response and recovery to disasters. This massive reduction would certainly impact hospitals across the nation, severely affecting their disaster preparedness, response and recovery efforts. Thus lowering their resilience to natural disasters and/or man-made, terrorism threats. So we lower our nation's defense, decrease funding that aids to the resilience of our communities' infrastructure, our healthcare facilities, all while we borrow and spend more and we "socialize" our healthcare? Oh, and there is more. The nation's healthcare plan will also go into effect as of 2013. Although people believe this new coverage plan was needed and beneficial to our nation, the reality of its impact is quite frightening. Hospitals across the nation are already struggling with great decreases in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. Unfortunately the average person who voted in favor of that plan does not work in healthcare. Every week we read headlines of hospitals filing for bankruptcy and making severe cost-cutting measures and/or "re-organizing." The Petris Center on Health Care Markets and Consumer Welfare studied short term general acute care hospitals that closed in California during the years 1995 to 2000. They identified 23 closures. According to that report, Los Angeles County experienced the greatest number of closures - 11 hospitals (Columbia Westlake Medical Center, Desert Palms Community Hospital, Friendly Hills Regional Medical Center, Long Beach Community Medical Center, Martin Luther Hospital, Newhall Community Hospital, North Hollywood Medical Center, South Bay Medical Center, Washington Medical Center, Westside Hospital and Woodruff Community Hospital). Don't mean to be a doomsday sayer but the realities of our economy and the impact of decisions being made in Washington and Sacramento on our behalf do have drastic consequences. So the lesson learned for us is that next time we have to vote someone into office, we better make sure they have our real interests at heart! Be safe, stay warm and merry Christmas Downey! Claudia Marroquin-Frometa is a Downey resident and emergency management coordinator at Centinela Hospital Medical Center, where she specializes in disaster preparedness and emergency management response procedures.

********** Published: December 13, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 35