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Sad Email Underscores How GOP Divides Us

My recent column suggesting that it’s time we stop demonizing public workers in Wisconsin generated a huge response from around the state.

Many thanked me for writing it, others suggested I take a long walk off a short pier.

One response, in particular, caught my attention. It came from a farm woman I’ll just refer to as Brenda and it expresses the frustration she feels about her and her family’s predicament, all of which doesn’t make her feel kindly about folks who work in public jobs. Here is what she said:

“I have never responded to a newspaper article before now. I am recovering from a recent hip replacement at the ripe age of 50. I have been working on our family farm for the past 19 years at my husband’s side.

“My surgery is a direct result of wear and tear from grueling physical exertion to keep all of our animals healthy and well cared for (regardless of whether someone in a public servant position mandates it or not). The past few years have been horrific. Our health care is out-of-pocket (empty) with a $10,000 deductible.

“We could hardly understand the policy when we bought it because it was so well disguised. We don’t get sick days or days off, until now. My husband has had to hire someone to help him. This is an extra burden on our dwindling income. We have tried to refinance our debt to a lower percentage rate, but we’re told we don’t qualify because we don’t make enough. Funny, our current bank is doing well each month off our higher rate.

“You could say why don’t you just sell the family farm and get jobs so that you don’t have to work like slaves to the banks? I ask you, do you know anyone who is quitting their public service job, so I can get health care I don’t have to worry about, having security in my employment and maybe even be able to have disposable income I could put away for retirement instead of my monthly contribution to my health care provider?

“My husband and I are both from big families and it seems the only ones who are weathering this depression are the ones at the public trough. In fact several of the retired ones are in Arizona and Florida as I write. We are one more major health crisis away from losing all we have worked for our whole lives. Please forward me that job application soon.”

Brenda’s is a family farm story I’ve recounted many times during my nearly 50 years at this newspaper. No one suffers more from the unfairness of the marketplace or our failure to truly reform our health care system than our family farmers, especially those who haven’t been able to take advantage of today’s "big is better" mantra championed by the so-called agribusiness conglomerates.

But, like so much that’s wrong with our public discourse these days, Brenda’s email underscores how successful the right-wing in America has been at turning working people against each other. Brenda’s frustrations, after all, haven’t been caused by the snowplow drivers or the teachers, the cops or the firefighters, the health inspectors or the receptionists, all of whom happened to make government service their careers.

They’re caused by the clever politicians who pose as a friend, get themselves elected to office and then do the bidding not of the workers they pretend to care for, but of the purveyors of corporate cash who fill their campaign coffers.

Scott Walker’s demonization of public workers won’t result in help for family farmers. Instead, he’s leading the charge to destroy the only health care reform the nation has seen since it adopted Medicare. What Walker derisively calls ObamaCare would offer family farmers affordable insurance without a $10,000 deductible, but the governor and his enablers in the Legislature are making it next to impossible for Wisconsin to participate.

But health care is just a small piece of the cynical game that has cleverly driven a wedge between people who ought to be fighting with, not against, each other.

Neither Brenda nor other family farmers will benefit if somehow public workers are reduced to having unaffordable health insurance with $10,000 deductibles while their pension plans are pilloried.

If Americans stuck together, the country might actually get true, single-payer universal health care that would not only cover the Brendas of rural America, but could save the health care system billions in unnecessary overhead costs.

First, though, the people need to stop believing the lies.

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