They Only See Us As Problems

Rally to protect Medicare and Medicaid, Bakersfield, CA, January 2017
Rally to protect Medicare and Medicaid, Bakersfield, CA, January 2017

A friend of mine expressed his despair over the current state of our political climate in an email this week:

“There seems to be a critical mass … of so many disparate yet complementary elements working against the good, it feels overwhelming.”

So Trump has reneged on the promise that his health care plan would be more cost-effective and protect a larger share of Americans than the ACA. I never believed him to begin with. Although I knew Obamacare could stand improvement, I also understood that its structure was designed to work by being amendable over time. Now, an $800 billion dollar tax cut for the rich, funded by an even bigger drawdown from Medicaid, seems like just another form of everyday corruption that we’re getting used to under the current administration.

But I care about the actual effect of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act—the numbers of people who will be hurt. This bill rips health care away from over 24 million people, a conservative estimate at best, and one that fails to account for its broader economic and social impact. Our population this year is around 326,500,000, so perhaps this seems like a smallish number, but that’s not the right way to measure it. Medicaid and CHIP (the Children’s Health Insurance Program) serve roughly 74 million people, about 68 million adults and over 5 million children. These cuts would directly affect more than a third of them, many of whom could be forced to endure curable illnesses, unmanaged disabilities, chronic diseases, or preventable deaths. And the damage to our clinical infrastructure and local economies—regional hospitals, nursing homes, visiting care programs, providers, community businesses, and average wage earners—has the potential to bring widespread dislocation.

Yes, I have written to my senators ― Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio ― but I already know how they’re each going to vote. There’s no moving Rubio, because he’s aligned to the collective political liability created by Republicans’ seven-year drumbeat of repeal-and-replace. They see this as “their day” and to hell with the country or the basic welfare of its people. And we continue resisting: For a great story on how some disabled activists have been fighting back this week, take a look at Rachel Maddow’s broadcast of June 22.

In the middle of writing this, there was a power failure and my Internet access died. I called my provider and nothing they could do remotely worked. A technician arrived the next morning and quickly sorted things out, plus he was able to explain it and tell me what to look for. We are both immigrants, and we got to talking about politics. He voted but did not campaign. I admitted the same. In his strong Caribbean accent he told me he felt responsibility for Trump being in power and that I should too. We agreed we wouldn’t let that happen again—he’s going to involve all his friends, family, and neighbors in the 2018 midterms. Intelligent and curious, he has taken himself far beyond the prospects of his high-school education. He is equipped not only with facts and figures but with an analysis of his own.

“The thing about the Republicans,” he told me, “is that they don’t see us as people, they see us as problems.”

This blog was previously published on, June 24, 2017.