by Aengus Cargo
Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid, Senator Bennet, Senator Udall, Representative DeGette:
As we all know, the nation has been alive with discourse of all flavors over the current state of the health care system and the insurance industry. Recently, Senator Baucus has brought forth his proposal, dubbed by some critics (rightly so, in my opinion) the “Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.”
Please listen: The very reason we need the government to intervene is because millions of us have a Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads. Private industry has already proven that it cannot be trusted to look out for its bottom line and simultaneously safeguard and maintain the health of the American people, even if some of us are misguidedly rallying in the streets against our interests at the urgings of their preferred Chicken Littles of media and industry.
It is my belief that what needs to be accomplished is the affirmation of every American citizen’s right to a basic level of health, security and well-being above a private company’s right to make a profit, which it currently does in part by conveniently discounting and disregarding its customers’ human rights at its whims. Private insurers need to know, as my mother would say, that “your rights stop where another one’s starts.”
Legislation that hands millions of new customers directly over to health insurers, who have made clear that they give their profit motives precedence over honoring their commitments to their policyholders, sometimes with deadly consequences, is simply a conversion of taxpayer money into more income for the industry and a tacit acceptance of its horrific business practices.
As a taxpayer, I have no qualms about the cost of health care reform–I consider it our duty to one another as citizens, as a community, and as a nation. How do you think it looks when Washington puts us all further in hock frivolously throwing money down the toilets of the banking industry, tax cuts for the rich, and Iraq, to cite a few recent examples (our last president tried to flush Social Security as well), and then tries to tell us that we’re not entitled to a health care system that won’t be tainted by continued rewards to an industry with no reservations about flipping us the middle finger and leaving us for dead when we dare get sick? Why are regular people being taught to accept the ever-growing obligations to war, to creditors, and to failed industry, and at the same time not to make an across-the-board investment in one another as this nation’s human capital: workers; thinkers; doers; entrepreneurs; taxpayers; human beings?
I am free to help pay your medical bills, and those of my grandparents, and for those of us in states of extraordinary need, but not for a system that’s going to be there for me, free from the tentacles and inflated costs of private interests, even if I don’t have the right job, the right friends, a trust fund, a winning Powerball ticket, or the good fortune to remain healthy and free of accidents between now, at the age of 29, and my 65th birthday, should I find myself again without income or coverage?
Is continued corporate captivity the thanks we are going to get from our representatives for supporting them with our votes and paying for their salaries, benefits and pension plans? We not only sacrifice our own salaries, benefits and pension plans (and for many of us, our homes) for others’ bad decisions and greed, but now we can expect to be groomed to accept some compromise from Capitol Hill that may or may not improve our lives while the jackpots continue to flow upward?
A hostile climate has been created for every working person in this country. We have been told for years by the powerful, privileged and obscenely well-compensated that we are going to have to do things like “tighten our belts” and “weather the storm” (or, as some have called it, the “rough patch”). We’ve individually and collectively been subjected to repeated assaults on our financial well-being, our employment opportunities, our civil rights, our health and our futures by an ever more demanding section of the population so far insulated from what we are truly facing. One can turn on the television and at any given time watch a politician, executive, “industry expert” or news reporter talk about our right to access affordable health care, even though they themselves would never fathom or accept such treatment, as though United States citizens were no better than numbers on a balance sheet or some rogue band of freeloaders trying to burgle the upper class.
We all know who is really being burgled.
Let me tell you something: I don’t care to hear what anybody in a position of privilege has to say unless they have truly done their homework or they have first-hand life experience to back it up. I don’t care if some insurance executive is going to have to postpone the construction of his exact replica of the M.C. Hammer mansion in Dubai if he doesn’t get some additional payoff from the American public. I’ve got skin in the game here, too, and you and the rest of our representatives have the opportunity to come through with flying colors for me and for my fellow citizens. We’re all counting on you, even those of us who don’t know it or won’t admit it because it wouldn’t fit their politics or their way of thinking to do so.
We as Americans need to join the rest of the West in providing each other, across income, party and racial lines, with a guarantee of basic care not as some so-called “middle-class entitlement,” as I have heard wafting condescendingly out of the windpipes of more than one multimillionaire, but as a long-overdue recognition of our needs and our rights, and perhaps the making of amends over the treatment so many of us have endured from entities that have been allowed growing and crippling control over the quality, course, and length, of our lives.
If a strong stand is not ultimately taken on our behalf, it will be a damning and ominous indicator of what this country truly thinks of me, my neighbors, my family, my friends, and the rest of my fellow citizens. I implore you: Keep an irrevocable public option on the table and stick to your guns on it. To be blunt, some of your colleagues absolutely will do their best to beat you over the head with whatever you do, so you might as well make it worth doing in the first place and roll with the punches so that we, as a nation, will come out better for it. I don’t want something for nothing, as the elites would put it–I want something better for what I have put in and will continue to put in, and the people of this nation have more than paid for it in service to their employers, their families, their communities, their country–and some with their lives.
A. N. Cargo
Denver, Colorado (CO-01)