Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Letter to Congress About Health Reform

I’m not sure why Congressman Bill Young is on the fence with a wait and see attitude about an issue that polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans strongly support--namely, some form of public health care. I’m 45, uninsured, and since I live just a couple miles from Bill’s Central Avenue office, maybe he can advise me where I should go in the event that I suffer a catastrophic illness.

I’d like to share a microcosm of the problem with you. I live in an apartment building on 5th Ave South in St. Petersburg. The building is managed by a Canadian couple who live on the premises. I have heard that they work illegally, but I don’t know any facts, and certainly am not making any allegations. However, what I can state as fact is that they treat me and my fellow American tenants like crap. They are rude, arrogant, nasty drunkards, and do not act like guests in a foreign country, but rather as though we are peons sojourning in theirs. I don’t know what their compensation package is with the owners of the building, but my rent pays into that, which they in turn send at least in part to Canada, and thereby harm our fragile economy by taking a job that could go to a capable American, while also in some measure exporting part of it north of the border. Yet once a year they both return home for a few weeks and have all their medical issues attended by their government provided health care, which is their right as Canadian citizens.

Last week, one of my neighbors was taken by ambulance to the hospital. She is having gall bladder problems, but because she doesn’t have insurance nor money to pay for it, she is not being given the treatment she needs. What is her recourse? To ask her friends and neighbors to pray for her. Is that how the so called ‘greatest nation on earth’ takes care of its own? That is absurd. With our rent and taxes she and I pay for Bill Young to have the finest health care anywhere, and provide our building managers with theirs, and yet we are offered NOTHING. How can you POSSIBLY say that everything is all right with the status quo?

I hear Americans mock Canada—they take care of their own. I hear Americans mock Cuba—they take care of their own. I hear Americans mock France—they take care of their own. We mock other countries as inferior, and thereby make a mockery of ourselves in the world. We look down our capitalist noses at poorer countries, and call them third world and developing. But if they provide better health care for themselves than we do, doesn’t that make us fourth world pond slime on the scale of nations?

Because of this crippled economy that we are currently suffering through, I now only work part time, and don’t make nearly what I used to, and therefore am not able to pay in taxes what I once did, and which I gladly would again. The idea of obtaining any kind of health coverage is preposterous at this time and place. The adage ‘those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’ seems to be an appropriate reference here. In looking over Bill Young’s voting record, I see that he voted for the Gramm Leach Bliley Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999. That bill repealed provisions of the Glass Steagall Act of 1933, which created the FDIC and imposed regulations on the banking industry, prohibiting banks from putting their depositors’ holdings at risk by investing in the market, in response to the causes of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the resulting Depression. The Gramm Leach Bliley Act was clearly one of the centerpiece efforts of the twelve year Republican congress, and the current economy is partially the harvest of what proved to be a devastating piece of legislation. Why they thought that recreating the climate in the financial sector that led to the stock market crash of 29 and the resulting depression would have a different outcome is beyond me. They probably didn’t.

I have only given Mr. Young’s voting record a cursory look, but it seems at first blush that he often votes in concert with the partisan line. Since the Republicans have demonstrated, by actions, that they are more interested taking us backward into difficult times rather than forward into better, I would at least ask that Mr. Young, when presented with drastically needed health care reform legislation, not be an obstructionist as many of his Republican colleagues are demonstrating themselves to be during this session of congress.

My neighbor and I are not isolated cases; nor or we merely hundred or thousands: we are representative of millions upon millions, whose ranks are swelling by millions more as downsizing, layoffs and benefit cutbacks continue across the country. Republicans in congress have already seen to it that a reenactment of the Great Depression is somehow in America’s best interest; please don’t tell me also that soliciting prayers from loved ones and death are my two alternatives to medical treatment should I fall ill in ‘the greatest nation on earth.’


Robert Charest

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