A Chain of Events

One anchor. One person. One person was responsible for bringing in thirty people legally into the United States.

How did it happen? By one act of kindness.

Was it good for America? Not at all.

Magical World

My father was an entrepreneur who started many companies. Some failed while others did very well. And over his life he employed lots of people and helped create a lot of wealth for them One of his employees was families had immigrated from Colombia.

She was a lovely lady who cleaned the office and helped around wherever she could. In her later years she helped my father and mother at their home.She did not speak English and first came here illegally. Since my father did not want any problems with the authorities, he paid for a lawyer and got her a green card. And over time  she got all of her documents, paid her taxes and became a U.S citizen.

Yet having lived here her entire life, she never learned English. Never took the time to learn the culture and never fully integrated into American life. She always lived as an outsider within the American system. And she knew her life was far better here than it ever could be in Colombia.

So now as a U.S citizen with full rights, she helped bring over her entire family from Colombia.. Her sister, daughter, husband, and nieces all immigrated here. And even today, she continues to bring over her extended family, all legally.

I always had a good relationship with Lydia and it became closer when I married my wife Rocio. When I moved back to N.Y, Lydia and my wife hit it off since they both spoke Spanish. And as I had children, Lydia helped me with my kids.

Lydia was the first person that opened my eyes to an America and a system that I never knew existed and would never be part of. It all happened when one of my daughters got sick and I had to take her to the emergency room. When Lydia saw the bill I had to pay, Lydia was first shocked that I paid and even more dismayed by my naïveté for paying the bill.

Lydia seeing how I overpaid for my daughters medical bills and other such things began to educate me informed me there are many ways to go to the emergency room and not have to pay the bill. In fact she began to teach me about the massive government system of services that are free to almost anybody, a system that I had no idea that existed.

It reminded me of a Lydia who skit done years ago on Saturday Night Live where the black comedian Eddie Murphy dressed up as a white man in a  comedy and goes out to what it was like to live as a white man in America.

In the first scene the white Eddie Murphy enters a newsstand is not allowed to pay for the newspaper by the white owner, and as he surmises “I guess white people give each other things when black people are not around.”

In another scene, Eddie Murphy is on a bus which breaks out into a grand party after the last black person departs. Finally when Eddie Murphy goes to a bank to get a loan and is rejected by the black banker because he had no i.d, no job and no collateral, he eventually gets a $50,000 loan in cash, when a white banker intervenes on his behalf .

The skit is hilarious in that it was clearly over the top and yet when I began to see how Lydia lived, it reminded me of that skit. Comedy works because it touches on the nerves of truth. We all know that there are diffrent experiences people have that we will never be part of  because of our race, color or gender. It is normal. However, comedy of  my association with Lydia I was able to get a glimpse into the world of government programs and assistance that the majority of Americans have no idea they existed how they operated

Lydia had none or practically  no medical bills (Medicaid). She could go a Doctor at virtually no cost.She had access to free food (food stamps, E.B.T program). She received several monthly checks from a smorgasbord of government agencies that helped her pay for her housing and other miscellaneous expenses. She was set.

Although these programs and doors are supposedly open to all Americans, I would never be able to access them. They were never meant for people like me. They were not meant for “Normal Americans”. Think I am wrong? Take a look at how veterans are treated with sub standard care at the Veterans Administration Hospitals. These are the types of the because government programs normal Americans receive. It was designed that way.

A few years back I went to a finance conference where one of the panelist argued how efficiently the government operated. The panel laughed at her comments, but she continued “The money in government is by being inefficient. For example many companies can bid on a government contracts- and for many  they will never win the contract nor ever be able to complete the application. But with the right contact (and payoff) within the government, you will actually get your application completed and win the job.” That was my epiphany. The government is actually quite receive efficient if you know how to pull the right levers.

The reason why Lydia had great benefits and veterans have terrible ones is because Lydia and her ilk know how to bring the votes. The communities Lydia lives in know how to get people elected and keep them in power and because of that the government responds to people like her. Veterans don’t vote as a uniform block and because of that, they are recipients of an inefficient government.  Minority communities generally speaking  live close to each other (think Chicago, NYC) which makes it easier to concentrate their power. While veterans are spread out all over the United States.

Lydia did what any rational person would do, she told her family about the amazing benefits she received and tried to bring in as many of them as she could.And now as a U.S citizen she continues to live off the government.

As a country we are worse off having allowed Lydia into our country. It pains me to say it but it is the truth. The people she brought over came here to consume and better their own lives and their received but not the country which has given them so much. The irony was that my father was a veteran who never once took anything form the government and yet has helped many others to do so.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Death By Injection

A good friend of mines son named Jacob died recently. He was only 20.

heroin

He injected heroin into his veins and died a few hours later.

He was a good kid. I liked him. I had not seen him in a years but I had met when he was a boy. He was a sweet person. He was one of those adorable kids you remember because of the goodness that oozes out of them.

He went to school, had a job and a girlfriend. And like most of us he was trying to better his lot in life. From what I understand he did not have a drug problem but did use drugs recreationally.

On this one instance, his occasional drug use cost him his life. His parents and friends will forever be saddened by this needless loss of life.

When I was in my teens, the recreational drugs that circulated were marijuana and some times cocaine. That was about it, because that was about the only thing that was accessible.

But as I have gotten older, it seems the amount of drugs available have skyrocketed. I would argue that it all changed in the late 1990’s with a change in the law.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I write quite a bit about politics, because  even the slightest changes in the law affect us all. Even though you might think changes in laws don’t affect you, they inevitably do.

I believe the genesis of the heroin boom began in the late 1990’s when drug companies were given the green light to start making new pain medication drugs. At the time, there were no real alternatives for patients who suffered from chronic pain. That is not to say there was no pain medications available, but there was not enough variety for the many ailments people suffered from. Some long time pain sufferers had no real recourse to alleviate their suffering and had lived it with it for years.

Lawmakers had been reluctant to open up the markets for new pain killing medicines as they were worried about the real possibility of an increase in drug addiction. But given the pressure by their constituents and the drug companies, a new industry was created.

One of the drugs that hit the markets in the mid 90’s was Oxycontin an opioid type medication similar to heroin. Both drugs are chemically similar, they are equally addictive, and both drugs are considered very difficult to withdraw from. Yet one was legal.

Drug companies and doctors benefited immensely by prescribing OxyContin as there was lots of money to be made. But there was a nasty side effect to the business, the patients got addicted. Doctors were happy to prescribe them to a point but once they started noticing that there patients were now addicts they had to cut them off. Doctors liked the money but were smart enough to know that they could lose their license if they started prescribing too much of it.

Desperate for their fix, the patients started buying the drugs in the black market and in Florida, pill mills started popping up to fill the need. A  pill mill is an operation in which a doctor, clinic or pharmacy pre- scribes and/or dispenses narcotics without a legitimate medical purpose. These doctors used their pre-scription pads to flood their communities with illegal narcotics.

These mills started booming all over Florida and became the epi-center for the drug trade. Patients, now cut off from their doctors found ample supplies through these pill mills. And when the addicts could no longer afford them they turned to heroin for their fix. Given the similar nature between these two drugs, the heroin market took off.

Clearly taking a pill is preferable to the alternative of heroin which is injected by a needle into the vein, but given that heroin is cheaper, people flocked to heroin. For example an 80 mg OxyContin can cost $60 to $100 a pill. In contrast, heroin costs about $45 to $60 for a multiple-dose supply. So many normal people” would never would have thought of injecting something onto their veins began to do so regularly did so because of their addiction and the cheapness of heroin.

Unlike Oxytocin where the doses and amounts are closely monitored, heroin is unregulated and manufactured in the black market. So when someone injects heroin into their veins, that person is literally in the hands of the drug dealer who made that batch. Growing up it was unheard of anybody who did heroin. It was the stuff of the hard drug users. But not anymore. Heroin has come to middle America. This is how a sweet kid, from a solid family with good economic prospects ends up killing himself. He used heroin because it is cheap and available and widely used as a drug of choice for many now. The stigma of heroin now longer exists.

This is how a change in law from 20 years ago can have major consequences many year later It was widely reported that during Donald Trumps campaign, he was  astonished by the amount of people that came up to him asking for help to solve the scourge of heroin. Drug use was not one of his main policy points but given the amount of sad stories he heard, he actually began to address this issues at many of his stops.

Now with marijuana being made legal in many states, who knows what future awaits us twenty years down the line. Living in Texas I have meet many recent Colorado transplants who have told me the main reason for leaving the state was the widespread use of marijuana. So we have already begun to see people take action due to this new law.

Right now, 3,999 American children die every month from an accidental overdose of heroin. That’s right, 129 people a day die from an overdose. This is the impact of laws. This is the impact of politics and this is how one change in law can affect us all.

Rest in peace Jacob. You will be missed.

Steve Clark

sleeclark@gmail.com