Twisted stories: On making poor people the threat

April 27, 2015 by

Life is much about trying to figure out how it makes sense- trying to find a story that tells us what’s going on and why. Politics is a competition of stories.   Advocacy is the fight to give one story primacy over another.

In the last months I have become as emotionally invested in the battle to expand healthcare in Tennessee as I have anything in a long time.   The personal stake has been great but in larger context it has been a battle of stories.

There is a frame of reference, a story, that says that being poor is a willful condition of a large group of people who are lazy and gleefully dependent upon whatever they can get from the government. Their appetites, the story goes are insatiable. They chronically cheat and without management will literally steal us all blind. Some states are now at the point where they not only manage how much food they eat but what kind. It is viewed as a legitimate consequence for the kind of people they have chosen to be.

The lack of health-care is also viewed as a consequence of willful choices. If they only worked harder, tried harder, if only they paid their way they would not be asking, no demanding, for what others work hard for.

Bigotry to have wide commerce must be cloaked in common sense. And the story about poor people is to too many the ultimate common sense. It explains clearly that they bring bad things on themselves. It explains why helping them is bad for them (it makes them more dependent and thus less likely to try harder to make life better) and why the poor are a threat to regular working people. (Personally I think the threat of poor people just gives the rich cushion from too many difficult questions but that may just be me.)

There is increasingly a polite bigotry. It says the problem is not with the poor (after all we are not bad people) but in the misguided and dangerous ways some would have us help them. They counsel patience and waiting. Sometimes though the nastiness seeps out but most are more polished than Senator Gardenhire. But bigotry in the end does not depend on the clothes it wears.

Poverty should not be a crime or seen as God’s judgement on our character and there
is a political vision that sees it that way. For too long in Tennessee it has been a too common vision.

The peculiar presidential politics of DJ Jaffe

April 27, 2015 by

DJ Jaffe (and the rest of the Murphy gang) have a major political problem.   Someone is going to be elected president of the UNITED STATES.   And it remains to be seen how the Murphy Bill will navigate that.

In one of his most recent bromide he talks about how Hillary Clinton is an enemy of “the seriously mentally ill.”  He further adds that although he is life long Democrat the Republicans are much superior advocates for the mentally ill. He doesn’t explain how the party against health care reform, against mental health parity, and for virtually every cut to social services imaginable (particularly mental health services) is for anything related to the needs of those with mental health issues. But none of that is the point of this post.

1. The Murphy Bill is going to have great difficulty getting past Barack Obama. The bill is basically an indictment of everything he has done on the issue of mental health.

2. Jaffe writes off Hillary Clinton.

3. He will have to explain eventually how Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and assorted others who have consistently come out against anything having anything to do with human rights, human needs, or human welfare are qualified to be president despite all they have stood for. And if he thinks any of them support Murphy he will have to explain how that is more important than all the other baggage they carry.

4. And many people will wonder what he uses for good sense.

I really wonder rather or not the Murphy gang will not put all their eggs in the basket of Republican victory in the coming election. It sure seems that way.

And I wonder if their eggs will survive.

Note to Bill Haslam: Ron Ramsey is the worst governor we have right now

April 27, 2015 by

Reading the article about the end of the legislative session news conference in the Nashville Tennessee and one observation seemed real clear:  there were at least two people in the room who  thought they were governor.   And they both may be wrong.

Bill Haslam is actually the elected governor.   He seemed kind of unsure about Insure Tennessee.   He was positive it was the right thing to do but was less than sure about how to make it happen.  He seemed to think that perhaps legislators lacked education  and that perhaps more education might be the answer. I was unsure of that.   Insure Tennessee has got to be one of the most taught proposals of all time. If you have read any major newspapers at all it has been discussed,  explained and dissected at length. It just seemed remarkably naive to believe that more facts and figures were going to make a difference.

   Many people identified it with Obamacare  and no facts will ever affect how they think about that.   They remain firmly committed to tilting at windmills and killing dragons and I am not sure how many facts it would take to change that.

Others are afraid of someone calling them soft on Obamacare  and are waiting for someone to show them it is safe to care and speak out for the 280,000 without insurance.   So far they don’t seem very convinced.

Perhaps there still remains an uneducated group.   I hope so. I would rather the governor be right.

I wonder if you are elected governor but don’t govern if you are still the governor.   Ron Ramsey thinks he knows the answer.   Bill Haslam can’t really be governor because Ron Ramsey is sure he is.

Ramsey “philosophically” would prefer that Insure Tennessee be laid aside and Tennessee wait for Medicaid to become a block grant.   The fact that would require major legislation at the federal level that isn’t going to happen doesn’t bother Ramsey.   He is sure a Republican president  will be friendlier.   No word  how long he is willing to wait.

Note to Governor Haslam:  Governor Ramsey sucks.   You should consider taking over.

What stands out more than anything else in the press conference was the lack of urgency.   I kept hoping someone would ask them which legislative session they were actually talking about.

I don’t know if Ron Ramsey is the worst governor Tennessee has ever had. That bar is set pretty high.   But I do think he is the worst one we have now.   I wish we could be like other states and just have one.

The fight for Insure Tennessee

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Insure Tennessee has resurfaced, thanks to some courageous senators in the Tennessee State Senate. In an hour it goes before a Senate Health Committee trying to survive the next step in the process. The papers today say it still faces serious obstacles. It is time for everyone to redouble their efforts and push even harder. In the end it is about whether or not justice will be found for so many Tennesseans that have waited so long. It is about so many lives unnecessarily ruined and so many more that need not be ruined.

The argument in Tennessee is not about competing models of care. Despite all the high sounding rhetoric there are no competing models. It is an argument for care versus a feverish search to make abandonment a political, financial and moral value. It is not about how to care, but rather or not to care at all…

View original 377 more words

Do not despair…on the battle for Insure Tennessee

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Do not despair
For no is not never
Mourn we must
Not for a vote
Or a meeting
But for lives
So close that
Must wait once again
Mourn for lives
Lost that need
Not be
Mourn for Tennessee
For justice deferred
And for promises
Once again on hold
Mourn for what
Could have been
But hold close what
Is yet to be
Know that your
Voice has mattered
That you matter
And Tennessee is different
Know battles are not wars
And that we need never
Accept politics over people
Ever again, never ever again
Share your commitment
Where ever you go
Today was hard
And so may be tomorrow
But know that
It is not an alone journey
Yours is a gift
Walk with those
Who cannot walk
Speak with those still
Seeking voice
Sing for those
Who think there are
No songs
And pray for those
Who only…

View original 37 more words

Recovery: Despite what pulls you down

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

A lot of things in life pull you down. A lot of human experience is the experience of loss, hurt, injury and disappointment. Circumstances limit us. We are limited by the social context we live in. We are limited by our history. We are limited by relationships. And too often, for most of us, we are limited by ourselves.

Life can and often is defined by the limits upon us. It seems we are easily the product of our experiences….but….

Life can and often is more than that. We can find life despite what is wrong, despite what is hard, despite what we are told we cant get past. We can find opportunity and promise amidst the greatest deprivation. Ordinary people everyday cope with, and become more than, what often seem like extraordinary circumstances, would allow them to be.

Recovery does not mean things are not hard. It does…

View original 237 more words

The limits of diagnosis

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

One of the single most hurtful things you can do to another human being is put a label on him and try to convince him he is what you have called him.  One of the most hurtful things we do to each other is to treat those around like they are nothing but the labels placed upon them or the names we call them.  It is the simplest way to excuse the wrongs we do to each other and to make excuses for the way we let each other down.

Psychiatric diagnoses are particularly like this.  It is not enough to distinguish between saying someone is bipolar and saying someone has bipolar.  One is perhaps more gentle.  It at least indicates that there is more to us than the labels used to describe it, but it is still I believe inaccurate.  It basically rests on the idea that we are…

View original 449 more words

Where should mental health help start???

April 25, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Where should mental health help start??  For too many people their experience is that mental health is not very helpful or at least not what they had hoped for or expected.  The question seems like a good place to start.

I start with one simple idea.  If mental health help is supposed to make life better a good place to start is what makes life better.

  • Dignity  The dignity and value of the people you work with should be the fundamental assumption that you start with.  That assumption should make a difference in the way you treat people.  People are much more likely to emotionally invest in what you are doing if they believe that you are emotionally invested in them.  My personal experience, based on 38 years professional experience and a lifetime of personal experience is this is not the starting point of mental health treatment for most…

View original 789 more words

“People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be in a jail than in a psychiatric hospital”– What does that actually not mean??

April 25, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Newspapers trumpet the news:

“People with mental illness 10 times more likely to be in a jail than a pschiatric hospital.”

Before we assume this is saying something it is not, what does this statement not mean?

1. It does not mean that criminal behavior is caused by a defiency in psychiatric hospitalization. It may or may not be correlated, but that is no proof of causation. I dont know, but would be willing to bet, that many of the “mentally ill” in jail have a previous history of psychiatric hospitalization.

2. It also ignores other correlations like poverty, ability to get and hold a job, family history, past history of abuse and other adverse events, race, age, history of substance abuse, and past criminal behavior among other things.

3. For example, the previous post talks about adverse childhood experiences and the research around that concept and how it affects…

View original 679 more words

A mental health bill of rights

April 25, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

1.  I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of the severity or numbers of problems or difficulties I may have.
2.  I have a right to be treated with honesty.  I should be able to  expect not to be manipulated into any particular course of treatment.  My questions and concerns should addressed honestly and openly.  The treatment recommended me should be a function of my needs  and not the philosophical tenets or personal prejudices of providers.
3.  I have a right to have access to all the information I need to make informed choices about any treatment I might seek.  The positives and risks of any prescribed medication should openly be explained.  Decisions I make about me should be honored and accepted.
4. I have a right to expect that the treatment recommended for me be a function of my assessed needs and not simply…

View original 536 more words

On the Titanic with Insure Tennessee

April 23, 2015 by

Feds review Tennessee’s uncompensated care funding
【from Next Browser】

Feds: Medicaid Expansion failure could cost state | Local News | Times Free Press
【from Next Browser】

Insure Tennessee is the lifeboat on our Titanic and our legislators would have not to worry about rough waters ahead.

Our legislators would not have us talk about deep water. They seem sure to do so would get them in trouble with the people in the boat and would advocate caution before dealing with those already drowning in the water.

The case for Insure Tennessee has been made so many times it seems redundant to repeat: serves 280,000 without insurance… Federal government picks up the cost…. Hospitals pick up anything left…. Hospitals in real trouble rescued…. Creation of new jobs…. Tennessee taxes back in Tennessee…. An escape clause in case it doesn’t work as expected…. It seems really simple: help a lot of people at no cost with no risk with lots of positive side effects. What is the problem?

The case against Insure Tennessee is also well known. Be careful or someone will accuse you of being soft on Obamacare. Fear and self protection over commitment and good sense. Pettiness and partisan politics over policy and long needed changes.

The articles linked above just drive home the point. The federal government is close to saying they are not going to play anymore. Tennessee may decide to not expand healthcare. But they can no longer count on the federal government to subsidize that choice. 750000000 dollars may be gone. The articles above explain it.

The iceberg is real. People are already in the water and don’t have to be. Without action it can only get worse. Closed eyes and wishful thinking will not solve anything.

It is long past time. Insure Tennessee now.

On a life saved: a long ago post

April 21, 2015 by

This post was originally written 8or 9 years ago. It was a story about a life saved. Insurance saves lives. It is that simple. As Insure Tennessee moves to its next chapter remember. When you read the story of life saved remember the lives that could be saved. Lives can be saved. Speak for those lives. Speak today for what we want tomorrow to be. It is time. Insure Tennessee.

Do you know anyone who died?

I was standing in a line at a fast food restaurant the other day.  I started talking with the lady in front of me.  The conversation ended up being about health care of all things (I’m not quite sure how that happened).  I remarked something about people dying because they didnt have the insurance to seek treatment.  The man in front of us got really angry.  He turned and snarled at me. “Do you know anyone who died?”  I told him I did.  He muttered under his breath.  “Well most of them dont.”

I was astounded by the whole incident.  I wished I had said more.  I didnt really know what to say.  But I think I know now.  I would have told him about a life saved by insurance:  that of my wife.

A little over a year ago it looked very much like she was going to lose her TennCare (Tennessee Medicaid).  I was unemployed and we didnt know what we were going to do.  Our story was no different than thousands of others and not nearly as bad as many.  I was invited to go to the Tennessee State Legislature and testify about TennCare. I had no figures, no statistics nothing like that.  I just wanted them to meet my wife.  My testimony is reprinted below.  Through the grace of God she kept her insurance.  Too many have not.

My name is Larry Drain.  My wife’s name is Linda.  It appears she is one of those getting ready to lose their TennCare.  I want to tell you our story.

7 years ago a good day for Linda was 10-15 grand mal seizures.  There were not too many good days.  She finally got hurt real bad in a seizure.  She fell down a flight of stairs, hit her head on the banister and broke her face.  Literally broke her face.  She looked like I had beaten her half to death with a baseball bat.

They told her what we already knew.  No medicine was going to work.  They wanted her to have brain surgery and after a lot of prayer we finally agreed.  They took her hippocampus and amygdala out.  She came out of the surgery with a whole host of disabilities that she never had before, most of which she still deals with to this day.  Her memory is shot.  She has never seen a rerun.  She many times can’t concentrate and because of that sometimes it is hard for her to learn things.  She loves to read, but sometimes can’t comprehend the words in front of her.  Many times it is hard for her to get the words out that she wants to say.  She could get lost going from one room to the other.   That was just the tip of the iceberg.

After a year the seizures came back and they came back with a vengeance.  4 years ago she was in Vanderbilt Hospital having a hundred seizures a day.  In the last 7 years I have had to quit work 3 times because it was too dangerous for me to be away from home.  The last time was about 3 years ago and I was out of work for about 9 months.  Linda started having what we were told were visual seizures.  Because of this she fell down  the same flight of stairs 5 times in a 3 week period.  We survived simply through God’s grace.

The last close call was this past July when she had 16 seizures in a1.5 day period.  Ended up in the hospital, was also looking at extremely serious stomach surgery, plus dealing with an emotional crisis.

TennCare has been a lifeline in our life.  Because of a tremendous amount of medical care and medication Linda is in the best health of her life right now.  In the last 7 years she has been in the hospital 17 times and went through 5 surgeries.  But she has only had one seizure in the last 4 months…

We have lived in hell, but have finally left.  Without TennCare it wouldn’t have been possible.  The miracle of Linda’s health is not a done deal.  It must be redone each and every day.  We can go back to where we came.  We have much to be thankful for.  So many others are in much worse shape.  For the first time maybe ever hope is more than wishful thinking.  I thank God for he has allowed TennCare to do in our life and I pray each day for his protection in what seems destined to follow.

We have one sword hanging over our head.  Several years ago a neurosurgeon told Linda that she  had another spot on the other side of her brain.  He told her that with succeeding seizures it would get bigger and in time she would no longer be able to care for herself.  He said that more brain surgery was a necessity.  A neurologist told her she had already had so much brain tissue taken out that with another surgery she risked coming out a vegetable.  Without TennCare that sword gets closer and closer to our head.

I will  also pray for each of you tonight, for I would not trade my shoes for your shoes for anything.


April 21, 2015 by

I don’t know anymore.  I am angry.  No maybe more than angry.  Desperate or whatever is past desperate.  Really, really hurt….

Linda got hurt again tonight in a seizure.  I wasn’t there.  She woke up with blood all over her face, her glasses broke and ruined on the floor.  I don’t think she can see well enough to function without them.  No idea what to do about that.  No idea where to even begin…..None.

I haven’t seen her yet.  She warned me her face looks bad.  Will see her tomorrow.  Two days ago hurt herself bad in another seizure.  Cut herself bad under her arm.  Tore off a couple of layers of skin.  Doctors are afraid it will get infected.  Told her it would take weeks to heal.  Looks more like she was shot than anything.  She is in a lot a lot of pain.

A doctor has signed a form saying she needs a caretaker.  Because of seizures getting a lot worse real quick it just isn’t safe.  Found out today government will not allow me to be that caretaker.

We are both scared.

Insure Tennessee has died in this legislative session.  We have to wait…Don’t know how long.  I believe we will win.  I know we will never stop but long term victory just doesn’t help tonight.  I wonder how many people tonight in much harder circumstances than us are worried about whether or not they will see new days or if new days will ever really come. 

Sometimes even the greatest courage meets fatigue.  The last couple of weeks have been many battles and the next days will be the same.  Perhaps it is self serving and kind of whiny but Linda and I could both use a minute of mercy

Pray for us.  I believe it matters.  Pray for Linda’s safety.  Pray for a miracle with glasses.  Pray for the so many worse off than us.  Pray that leaving Nashville will not allow our legislators any rest from Insure Tennessee.  Pray for justice and maybe kinder times.

I know I am ready….

The job description of a Tennessee state legislator

April 19, 2015 by

Your job description is justice.  I really think it is that simple.  Your job is through your decisions, your leadership and your modeling to give the people of this state the fairest chance availible to live a good and decent life.  Period.  Everything else is gravy.

How can there be justice without healthcare justice?? Where is the justice when some people are disposable??  Where is the justice in a society that treats the less priveliged members of it as though they were burdens and cost too much.  If justice for you, for me, for anyone is purchased with the misfortune of others do any of us have any real justice??  Are not we all diminished??

How has justice been served? For whom have you stood up for this session? For what have you stood for? How is Tennessee better for you having been here? Have you done your job? What is the legacy that you have given this state?

No one should die because justice was yours to do and you failed.

Do justice.

Insure Tennessee.

You lost by getting your way

April 19, 2015 by

Dear Senator Ramsey and Rep Harwell :

You got your way, but you lost.  Insure Tennessee,  barring a miracle will not make the floor. In the long run though you have lost. You took an issue and created a movement.  You created a rage, a strong feeling on the part of thousands and thousands of Tennesseans that their elected officials have forgotten who they work for. You have ignored the welfare of 280,000 Tennesseans. In a state where 70% of the people support  Insure Tennessee,  where virtually every newspaper, every civic organization,  every business organization, every health organization,  many faith  based organizations,  almost every public figure or local leader has spoken in favor of Insure Tennessee your voice, your leadership has  been absent.  In your absence someone like Todd Gardenhire has become the symbol of the legislative response to the challenge of  280,000 uninsured Tennesseans and your entire body has been left to look petty, hateful, and ridiculous.

You have a program that saves lives,  means jobs to Tennessee,  stabilizes a health system choking on uncompensated care that will not cost the state of Tennessee a penny with an exit strategy should it  not be as advertised proposed by a Republican governor to a Republican legislature and you spend 2 days debating on the floor whether or not the Bible should be the official book of the  state.  Insure Tennessee has yet to see the floor.   Perhaps if your members had concerned themselves more with the principles in that book it would have.

You have changed Tennessee. Your policy of ignoring the voices of thousands  and thousands  of Tennesseans and hoping they would go away has been an abysmal failure.  All the rhetoric just seems hollow and self serving. This is not an issue of Obamacare or fears about the threats of Americans for Prosperity or other organizations that think they can buy Tennessee with big money or threaten it with a big stick.   It is about justice and a fair chance at life that 280,000 Tennesseans have been waiting  for way too long.   It doesn’t matter how many people in little red tee shirts are bused in from other states.

You have truly made a mess.   It is time for you to act as the leaders you are capable  of being.   It is time  for the people to come first.   At long last time for the people to come first.   Do the right thing.   Put people before politics.   Insure Tennessee.   Now!!!!

Yours truly,

Larry Drain


Thank you for subscribing to “Hopeworks Community”

You’ll get an email with a link to confirm your sub. If you don’t get it, please contact us

The authors can also be followed on: