When America Was Great

I was very impressed watching the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the D Day Normandy invasion during the Second World War. The courage and dedication of those men as well as the entire country during that war was remarkable. The entire nation was united in a common cause.

When the men who served in the armed forces returned home from the war, they were determined to go back to a normal life. There was a determination to make a better life for their children and those who followed. In fact, that generation was more focused on public service as a great cause. That was evident in the generation of my parents and those who served in public office.

In fact, it was the government, in the form of the G. I. Bill that literally built Parma. My parents bought their house on Theota Avenue in Parma in December 1949 when I was just a little over a year old. That house was a modest Cape Cod bungalow like many others built in Parma and around the country then. It wasn’t very big, but my parents raised three children in that house. We never felt deprived and we felt fortunate to be living in a nice neighborhood with modern conveniences like television and a refrigerator.

Like my father, just about every father on the block was a war veteran who bought their house using a “G. I. Mortgage” offering low-interest rates and little down payment. That was true in just about every neighborhood in Parma as well.

Besides the mortgage, my father took advantage of the G. I. Bill and studied marketing at Western Reserve University so he could leave his job at the post office and work in the world of marketing and advertising. His two brothers, who also bought houses in Parma, used the G. I. Bill and became lawyers. Two uncles on my mother’s side used the G. I. Bill and became engineers.

But most of my neighbors in Parma worked in the auto plants, steel mills, and other manufacturing plants in the Cleveland area. It was strong labor unions that made a living wage possible so workers could afford to buy a house in a suburb like Parma and to send their children to college. The father next door was a local union official.

But everyone then valued education, even if they didn’t use the G. I. Bill to attend college. Most wanted their children to be able to go to college and for many in my high school graduating class who went to college, they were the first in their family to go to college. I don’t remember a school levy being defeated when I was growing up. I felt that I received an excellent education in the Parma schools.

Back then, there was a great system of state-supported colleges and universities where anyone could afford to attend college. It was possible for middle-class families to afford to pay the tuition at a public college or university. It was also possible for a student to literally work their way through college since most jobs then actually paid enough so a young adult could work and afford to pay their college tuition. When I graduated from college in 1970, the vast majority of my graduating class graduated debt free.

So, what has happened since then? First, the state of Ohio provided more than 80% of the operating costs at state-supported colleges and universities back in 1970. Now, the state of Ohio provides only about 20% of the operating costs at those colleges and universities. The result has been tuition increases far in excess of the overall cost of living.

Then most of those well paying union jobs have disappeared. In addition, wages and salaries for most jobs have barely kept pace with the cost of living over the past fifty years. During that same period, executive compensation has skyrocketed while the tax rates on higher incomes have been slashed to levels not seen since the “Roaring 20s” of almost 100 years ago.

We know what made the country great seventy-five to fifty years ago. We also know what to do to rectify this situation. But our country has lacked the courage and political will to do what is needed. Misguided public policy pushed by elected officials who are in the pockets of wealthy donors has almost destroyed what made the United States great back then.

Perhaps our younger generation might be able to help rectify the situation.

Lee Kamps

Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.

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Volume 11, Issue 7, Posted 10:28 AM, 07.02.2019