© 2022 Tootie Smith for Oregon. All Rights Reserved.

Truth and Consequences

Headlines all across the United States have declared for months that our hospitals are completely at capacity. This has been done largely for the sake of shaming people into getting the COVID vaccine.

But the reasons for the strain on our hospitals are far more complicated than that. And they are the result of deliberate public policy decisions that were made years ago.

It was recently reported that Oregon and Washington have the fewest number of hospital beds per capita in the entire United States. Is that because both of these Pacific Northwest states have so many more COVID cases than anywhere else? No. Is it because both states have higher percentages of unvaccinated residents than other states? Also no.

Following the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, Oregon rushed to be the first to implement all of its provisions. Then-Governor Kitzhaber wanted this state to be the model for the new law’s success.

Under his watch, the state created Coordinated Care Organizations for the sake of emphasizing preventative treatments for Oregonians. However, as a result, the number of hospital beds available at any given time is regulated by the state government. Any hospital that wants to add more hospital bed capacity must first seek approval from the state by verifying and proving that they are needed.

When the ACA was being debated in Congress, many people said that its passage would ultimately lead to the rationing of health care in this country. Time has proven their fears to be entirely founded.

Another public policy decision that’s having an adverse effect on our practical ability to combat COVID has come in the form of mandates.

Frontline workers like nurses have been rightly heralded over the last year and a half as the heroes that they truly are. This whole time, day in and day out, they’ve been helping patients get the treatments they need to survive this awful virus and its related symptoms.

Those same nurses are now being told that they must receive the vaccination in order to keep their jobs. Some are refusing and have different reasons for that which are, frankly, none of anybody else’s business. But having this kind of policy in place will obviously exacerbate the staffing shortages already being faced by the health care industry.

This is another example of deliberate public policy decisions being made with little to no public input and having disastrous consequences that we all have to live with.

It doesn’t just apply to health care, either. The City of Portland tried to impose the same vaccine mandate on its police officers.

Rarely does a night go by anymore without a shooting somewhere in that city. Many Portland police have already retired or resigned due to the failure of its politicians to adequately support them in their mission to bring about public safety. When told about the new mandate, the police banded together and pushed back. And you know what? They city backed down.

There are many lessons to be learned here. The first is that public policy decisions, regardless of their original intentions, have consequences that can sometimes be severe and take many years to become obvious.

The second is that by standing united and pushing back, we can remind those who wish to control us that it doesn’t work that way. We are all born with inalienable rights that our government was created to defend, and no temporary crisis or emergency, no matter how bad, is sufficient grounds for taking them away.  

Are Our Kids Supposed to be Social Experiments for Oregon’s New Drug Law?

Over the past couple of weeks, law enforcement officials and prosecutors from throughout Oregon have started to realize the aftermath of Measure 110’s passage in last November’s general election. The bottom line is that it will drastically affect their ability to do their jobs.

Measure 110, which took effect February 1, changes possession of user amounts of controlled substances to a violation instead of a crime. Fortunately, Commercial Drug Offenses (CDOs) for many substances will remain a felony and some will be a Class A misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, the legal threshold between what will constitute a violation versus a crime is still somewhat baffling. Someone can now possess up to 40 units of LSD and methadone and 40 oxycodone pills and have it considered a mere violation.

What all of this means is that the investigation of drug crimes will now become more complicated and difficult than ever before.

That’s not even the worst part. Oregon voters were sold a bill of goods, in the form of a promise that passage of the measure would lead to more people getting the addiction treatment help that they need. But this recent article shows that this state is ill-equipped to deal with the anticipated influx of people wanting to utilize those programs.

As it currently stands, Oregon taxpayers spend billions of dollars on treatment programs. That spending is not tracked, and the system is already overwhelmed with people waiting months for addiction treatment services and not receiving them.

Oregon is a state whose residents already struggle with substance abuse. An estimated 300,000 residents are battling an addiction of some sort or another. We’re among the top states for abuse of painkillers and methamphetamine.

Although I’ve long believed in our initiative petition system, I believe it was abused in this case. Out-of-state interests decided to spend a few million dollars to essentially run an experiment in our beloved state, using some of our most vulnerable and underserved residents as guinea pigs.

If this measure produces the outcomes desired by its sponsors, you can expect to see similar versions of it popping up in other states. However, if it creates problems or makes existing ones even worse, which I believe will be the case, we alone will have to deal with the consequences.

Public policy is often described as a pendulum that swings back and forth, based on the actions and reactions to different decisions that are made. Sometimes the pendulum swings too far in one direction or another and eventually comes swinging back to a point of reasonable balance.

It can be argued that the War on Drugs took things too far in one direction, with the long-term incarcerations of millions of Americans for simple drug possession. But that pendulum seems to be heading to the opposite extreme, and I hope that we’re ready to bring it back into balance once everyone realizes that it’s gone too far.

Tootie Smith welcomes your comments and ideas to this or any topic of interest here…

Why I Became FEMA Certified

I became FEMA certified because I wanted to ensure that our citizens had best in class knowledge and preparedness services should an emergency or disaster arise. When I was a county commissioner, we had the foresight to realize that we were lacking in preparedness for a county with 1.2 million acres. It was here I realized I had to do something, and I volunteered to become FEMA certified.

Through my FEMA training and certification process, I learned what my leadership role would be and how to listen to the health authorities, law enforcement and transportation agencies to get our people back to normal as quickly as possible.

Safety is the First Obligation for Government During Coronavirus Situation

  1. Government’s role is to protect the life and health of its people by planning ahead. Education programs, testing kits, and financial reserves must be readily available.
  2. Protect the health care system by ensuring our doctors and nurses can do their jobs. If they are quarantined, who will care for the sick.
  3. Protect the economy. People’s jobs and the wages they earn must be maintained. Markets must be stable as the world looks to America for financial stability. This includes government budget health with adequate reserves.
  4. Government at all levels must maintain public confidence, instill trust, and teach peace. Find a leader who does this.

During these uncertain times, we all are learning how to lead and live lives not imaginable. 

We are strong. We are resilient and we will conquer this virus.