From Coast to Coast: Health Care Not Wealth Care?

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CommonDreams.org

From Coast to Coast: Health Care Not Wealth Care?

by
Donna Smith

CHICAGO - Last week, I heard a lot about healthcare reform as I traveled from Washington, DC, to Boston and on to San Francisco. In just five days, I spoke to literally hundreds of people who believe as I do that if we have the money to provide wealth-care for the nation then we surely have the money to provide health care too. The problem is, those who want the wealth-care through bail-outs are also those who would deny us health care - especially now.

But this week I am back home in Chicago and as the full blush of the economic drama unfolds, I find myself madder than I thought I'd be.

I called my senators yesterday before the failed House vote on the bail-out and told them I am fed up with the mess on Wall Street, fed up with the bail-out of the big boys, fed up with the wealthy ruling the rest of us. Enough is enough doesn't touch my rage.

Senator Barack Obama's office politely logged my comments and took down my address. Sen. Dick Durbin's office did not - they argued with me about the benefits for me of the bail-out. They argued with me - asked me if I wanted to see more people suffer if there was no bail out. Oh my God. They argued with me.

Four years ago, my husband Larry and I declared bankruptcy because even with health and disability insurance and a healthcare savings account, we went belly up when our bills and expenses surged well past our ability to cover them - Larry has chronic health issues; I had cancer. There was no way for us to hang on despite our efforts to borrow and plead to stay afloat. We lost our house and most of our furniture and most everything we worked to achieve.

As punishment for going bankrupt in America, we will never again - never again - own a home or have a credit card that isn't savings backed or have any of the nods of acceptance the "good" credit bearers have in this nation. People will look at that bankruptcy and judge us unfit - look down their noses at us and decide we are losers from now until forever. We got sick and we went broke and we are no longer among the valued folks in this nation.

But today, my U.S. senator's office argued with me about how Wall Street needs this bail out to protect me. Come on. There is nothing directly in this for me - nothing to help repair the damage I sustained. I have lost everything. I will never have it back no matter if I work 100 hours a week or try 1,000 times harder than I did before. Nothing I can do will erase my failure in getting sick.

Next week, though, armed with my money from the bail out that will yet surely pass, the Wall Street leaders and the government leaders who now judge me unfit will sit fat and happy sipping fine wine and eating pate and giggling about the next trip to Europe or an evening at the club - their lives will remain soft and pure and without the nasty judgments I have to endure every day. My bail out will have funded their greed and smug disdain for people like me. My money was good enough for that purpose, I guess.

I support single payer healthcare reform as the only way to truly fix the healthcare mess in this nation - morally and in a responsible way for the economy as well. But in light of the bail-out we must give the folks who find me distasteful, my fight for single payer will be more challenging, I suspect.

It stinks to the high heaven in America today. I understand damn well that they've mismanaged this into a point of collapse and that without a fix from somewhere that there are dire things waiting to unfold worldwide. But by God no one was there to lift me up or put me back on my feet. And I will die without a home. I will die without ever regaining what I lost. And I will die with the bastards who I am bailing out today looking down their noses at me like I am a piece of garbage because I cannot shop at Neiman Marcus for my clothes or carry a Fendi bag...

I am sick to my stomach after talking with Durbin's office. I can only hope that the polite and respectful response from Obama's staff will reflect how I will be treated under a President Obama. Else, I am not sure staying alive under this sort of domestic and economic terrorist assault on my humble position in life is worth enduring.

This bail out reflects a much deeper and more difficult problem - a very fundamental disdain for democracy. You see, anyone in government who believes this is the way to treat the vast majority of your citizens certainly does not believe in the common good or the value of individuals within a democratic system. We are just depositors in their bank accounts - they need us to foot the bill for their party. And we're not invited to any table at all. We can pick up the trash.

Donna Smith is a community organizer for the California Nurses Association and National Co-Chair, Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign

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