Vail Daily column: Of the people, by the people and for the people
Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
Thanks to “Schoolhouse Rock,” I know that our Constitution begins, “We the people …” As a result, I can only quote the preamble with a bit of song in my voice.
Building on the concept that our form of government derives its power from its citizens, Abraham Lincoln delivered what is arguably one of the most famous speeches in American history — the Gettysburg Address. In his address Lincoln popularized a belief still embraced to this day, that our government is, “of the people, by the people and for the people.” He urged the audience that day to continue what the soldiers who fought and died on that ground “nobly advanced,” that our exceptional nation should endure.
The country remains, but does our governance reflect the will of the people? Two recent national polls indicate that the majority of Americans disapprove of the Republican health care bill. A USA Today/Suffolk University Poll indicates that only 12 percent of Americans support the bill, while a NPR/“PBS NewsHour”/Marist poll puts the support somewhat higher at 17 percent.
In either case, support for the Republican legislation falls far short of a majority. The Republican agenda does not reflect the wishes of most Americans.
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Rep. Scott Tipton deceitfully assured constituents that if they are Medicaid recipients, then they will not lose Medicaid coverage under the new Republican health care bill. It is a promise he cannot keep and one of the reasons many of his colleagues do not support the bill.
The Republican plan caps federal spending on Medicaid below current levels, as though the population would remain static and no one else will ever get sick. According to the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, the Republican bill will “dramatically cut the Medicaid program, reducing what Colorado would have received by $340 million the first year, $14 billion by year 10, with a total of more than a trillion-dollar loss for Colorado by 2025.”
Bearing the brunt of these cuts will be children, elderly and the disabled. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on a monthly average, “Medicaid served 33 million children, 27 million adults (mostly in low-income, working families), 6 million seniors and 10 million persons with disabilities.”
The Republican bill was largely crafted in secrecy and only recently released beyond the 13 male senators drafting it. Although senators are not obligated to hold open meetings on the bill, the Republican gambit reeks of hypocrisy, given their criticism of the Democrats’ passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. To be clear, the Democrats did hold committee hearings in the House and Senate, as well as 25 days of floor debate in the Senate before voting on the legislation.
The Constitution’s preamble establishes a goal for our government to promote “the general welfare.” Today, “welfare” is a tarnished word. It implies dependency on the government. However, its intended meaning includes safety, security and health. Along with sustenance and shelter, health is a basic human need. Health care, like education, is an essential human right.
I am not alone in this belief. According to the Pew Research Center, “60 percent of Americans believe the government is responsible for ensuring health-care coverage for all Americans.” The proposed Republican health care bill does not reflect either the public’s desire that every citizen have health care coverage or the Constitution’s entreaty that government promote the general welfare of its citizens.
Bernie Sanders was onto something. This weekend, renowned capitalist Warren Buffet told Judy Woodruff on the “PBS NewsHour” that it was time to consider a single-payer health-care system. Elizabeth Warren has also jumped on that bandwagon. Support for a single-payer health care system is growing in America. According to Pew, 33 percent of Americans support single-payer; although not a majority, that figure does represent an increase of 5 percentage points since January.
Millions of Americans will lose health care coverage under the proposed Republican legislation. Most Americans do not want that. The current system is not perfect and needs fixing, but the Republican plan is no fix.
A government of, by and for the people is our inheritance. Let us not squander it by surrendering it to cloistered politicians beholden to special interests. Call your elected officials, update your voter registration and by all means — vote.
Claire Noble can be found online at clairenoble.org and Claire Noble Writer on Facebook.