Friday, July 28, 2017

Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

It's been a good long while since I've posted here. In the meantime, I've published a book of poetry, Thoroughfares to Love, finished another, and am digging into a third volume. The third is slower going, because it's presenting itself as metaphysical. Writing about love and nature is much easier. It's really a matter of describing from the inside what I see on the outside. This spiritual stuff is all about the inside. All indications are that these poems will emerge from depths I'm only just discovering.

As I wait for this crop to grow, my essayist voice is clamoring to be heard again. Like love and nature, politics is an obvious target.

Before last fall's election, Trump/Pence signs started springing up in the well-to-do neighborhood where one of my friends and yoga clients lives. I asked her, "What's up with all the Trump signs?" She shook her head.

"For some people, it doesn't matter who the president is."

Since 45's election (using his name only adds dignity he doesn't deserve), she and I have often shaken our heads at his antics. I'm searching for adjectives to describe the spectacle of this week's health care legislation votes. The fairest characterization is to call it a natural disaster that was forecast to impact our country in some way, and ended up being, for now, all sound and fury signifying nothing.

It seems to me that a lot of the Republican party's ideas now consist of only sound and fury and not a lot else. I'm old enough to remember the anti-tax fervor that swept Ronald Reagan into the presidency. Cutting taxes seemed like a great way to give individuals more decision-making powers. Plus, those who succeed financially would create ripples of opportunity for others.

Nearly 40 years of lower taxes are proving that individual power has come only for a few at the expense of the government's decision-making powers. It is hard-pressed to provide what all civilized societies strive for--great jobs, roads, schools, national parks, national security and healthy communities. Much of what I hear from the so-called conservative party is that the country should only be in the business of building an infinitely powerful military and further enriching already fabulously wealthy people who are still making vague promises to give us peasants good jobs. We're told we really can't afford nice things--great schools that lift people from cycles of poverty, affordable college, a fair justice system, sensible environmental regulations, and a health care system that insures people and ensures they don't lose everything because of a tough diagnosis and expensive treatment.

I see the health care debate as basically a tax argument. The individual and employer mandates that fund part of the Affordable Care Act seem to be the biggest bones of contention. This should be an easy problem to solve--invest in our businesses and our people with tax money. But taxes have become a sacred cow.

Some of the resistance is spite. Leaders and pundits object to anything the nation's first black president accomplished or tried to accomplish. Spite is a strong term. It is also the right word to use when there are so many people, included elected representatives, who publicly say health care is a privilege rather than a basic human need.

We also have lost common understanding of how insurance works. For instance, my husband and I have paid our auto and homeowners' insurance premiums for more 30 years without making more than a couple of claims. My insurance agent would laugh at me if I made the argument that I only expect to pay for what I use, because that's not how the business model works. We pay our premiums to hedge our bets--knocking on wood--against accidents and natural disasters that damage or destroy our property. There was a major flood in Boulder County in 2014, and though our property sustained no damage, many neighbors' did. Our premiums rarely decrease. I trust that our insurance company is investing our premiums wisely to take care of claims other customers make. Like a good neighbor, I also trust they'll be there for us if we need help.

I know people get this. But why in heaven's name do so many not seem to understand that health insurance works on the same principle? Surer than many of us will ever need natural disaster relief,  all of us have needed, need and will need health care.

We all need to take some deep breaths and ask ourselves some serious questions. How much do we really want this thing called the United States of America? Do we want to live in healthy, thriving communities, or have we become so tribal we care only about the health and prosperity of the people we love? Is it just too hard to fight for it and for ourselves and each other, or do we want a tough-talking president to just take care of everything for us? Or not. Mostly not.

The repeal and replace jive--and it's all been jive, and even former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor admits it--won Republicans three consecutive elections. It's a lot like the No New Taxes slogan--a bunch of bullshit. And no, the fact that our infrastructures are crumbling is not solely due to fraud, waste and abuse. Quite simply, more money is needed. That means more taxes. Those of who can afford to pay more will barely miss it. It's a small price to pay for living in great communities.

While we're at it, let's lobby for paying people more so they can pay their own bills. That's one reason why people voted for 45--he told them that under his leadership, they would not only have better jobs, but the dignity of paying their own way. Who would need Obamacare under these conditions?

After this week's legislative storms, here's what I would like to see: our representatives working together to improve the American way of life. For instance, the interstate system is the pride of our nation. It needs maintenance and expansion and gets it. I look at health care as infrastructure that similarly needs maintenance and updating. If you don't like where the ACA is going, that doesn't mean it needs to be destroyed. Repave it and add more lanes.

In the process, we might actually make America greater.

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