For well over half a century it has been a fundamental tenet of our society that we will provide a safety net for all Americans. To generation after generation, it has been a promise made and a promise kept. It is what Hubert Humphrey meant when he said, “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.”
In other words, there is embedded in his words a truth that for a broad spectrum of our citizens the safety net is not only in place but is essential.
Let us agree that to live life (to carry on the metaphor) is to walk on the high wire. And it is likely — almost a certainty — that at some point we will slip and fall. We will have an accident, our health will be in jeopardy, we may be confronted with an illness that is chronic or poses an existential threat. In some fashion it will require an intervention. For some this will lead to wellness. For others, they will face with an inexplicable courage an uncertain future. But regardless of the circumstances, the safety net is there.
In truth, with few exceptions, life, for the young and for the old, can entail a preexisting condition. Life is, by definition, a preexisting condition. It’s just a matter of time. We all escape until we don’t.
There are those among us who struggle to face each day from a bed or a wheelchair. Or make their personal journey absent a limb. Others shoulder pain or a resistant disease that seems intent on overwhelming them.
For us all, we can find comfort in knowing that just below us is the ever-present safety net. This is how we define Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and so much more. Think of the word “safety” and what it alone means. If you fall, it will not be into a dark abyss of bankruptcy or a wrenching uncertainty. As a people, isn’t this who we are?
All of the above poses the following question: Why, in their quest to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, would the Republicans shred the Medicaid safety net for tens of millions in order to deliver a tax break to those who need it least?
I cannot begin to puzzle out the reasons the GOP would do such a reprehensible and cruel thing. It is indefensible. But then I acknowledge that I have felt for a long time that this new Republican Party (since Reagan) has grown ever more ideological and mean-spirited while intent on deconstructing every aspect of what was once called the New Deal — and all that has followed. They have spent years lobbying against Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Some in their party have recently called for a straightforward repeal and suggested that a replacement can come later. It is an unconscionable, stark proffer. Why not step forward, join the Democrats, and mend the Affordable Care Act?
But then, I judge the Republicans in Congress to be morally bankrupt. They have struck a Faustian bargain with Trump, no matter how reprehensible his administration has become. They ask only that they be able to pass their legislation, such as repeal/replace.
They are also in the process of dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency, brick by brick, regardless of the science that has unequivocally concluded that global warming is a threat to our very existence. Governmental regulations that serve and protect are being systematically stripped away.
Meanwhile, Trump and his cohort are spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars to craft a Voter Fraud Commission predicated on the belief that the 3 million more votes cast for Hillary than for Trump were cast illegally. As well, the commission has demanded that all states provide voter rolls including Social Security numbers, party affiliation and voting history. It is insidious, by definition conspiratorial. Trump might as well form a commission to find Yeti or Bigfoot.
Meanwhile, the Republicans’ silence is deafening.
And not a word of concern has ever been expressed by the White House about the Russian interference in our 2016 election. Not even in 140 characters.
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.