and what do YOU think?

the last couple of weeks have been kind of exhausting for me, and not just because i’m blogging every day. see, in Minnesota, there’s this program called General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), which funds health insurance for the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick in our state. these are folks making less than $8,000 a year, who’ve fallen on hard luck, who’ve grown up in poverty, who have mental illnesses, are veterans, are homeless and/or are desperately sick. i’ve been working on this a lot, like last week, for example, when i organized that vigil.

last spring, our Governor line-item vetoed this program, to help balance our state’s budget. i’m not going to get in the politics of why; let’s just leave it as he vetoed it. it’s gone, by the stroke of one person’s pen.

over the past nine months, grassroots efforts have shone a light on the Governor’s veto, which effectively balances the state’s budget on the backs of the poor. a logical, money-saving bill was written, passed in both the State House and Senate, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan way. and then it was vetoed. again.

i guess what has been making these past few weeks so difficult is that i honesty CANNOT wrap my brain around the argument against GAMC. it fundamentally shakes me, makes me so angry, to read comments like this:

Greed is when you demand others pay for services you consume. Greed is the result of envy for things you don’t have and are too lazy to earn. Those on GAMC who are “vulnerable, dependent and needy” are that way because Democrats encourage them to be.

i’ve been stewing on this, mostly because it appears to be so straightforward. it is SUCH a common sense argument. but then why does it make my skin feel all crawly, my neck feel like it needs to be cracked, my eyeballs like i want to pull them out of their sockets?

are there really people who exist who feel that they are immune to poverty, immune to the chance that someday, s/he might be the one in need of a service s/he can’t pay for? do they think homeless people deserve to be homeless, don’t care that they’re homeless, don’t want a stable life? i don’t understand. i firmly believe that each person currently on GAMC IS ALSO every one of the rest of us, in another life, or a few years ago, or perhaps a few years from now. how can one person be so arrogant as to believe that s/he earned everything s/he has, all by himself? how can one person be so shortsighted? what IS this arrogance that infects us? what is this PREJUDICE that we hold so close to our hearts? when it comes down to the sacrifice of money, versus the sacrifice of bodies… shouldn’t bodies win out?

this is what GAMC is all about. without medications, without appropriate health care, people WILL die. i know it sounds extreme. i know it because i hate writing it, because i typically shy away from anything too extreme. but it’s the ugly reality that no one wants to hear: without prescriptions, a person with diabetes (cancer, PTSD, heart disease, anxiety issues, depression…) will inevitably die, in all likelihood because they weren’t taking the meds they need.

i don’t know. i’m STRUGGLING with this. that “other perspective” is neither logical nor compassionate, two places i most often go to when making decisions about what i believe.

my strength, academically, has usually been the ability to understand other people’s perspectives. it’s what makes my spiritual life so undefined, because i can so clearly see the rationale for other religions, and other modes of (un)belief. but this way of thinking, the kind that is based on the refusal to acknowledge where another person is coming from… it escapes me.

someone comment, yah? help me figure this out. what do you think?


5 Comments on “and what do YOU think?”

  1. Leslie Kruempel says:

    My brain is fuzzy right now but I want to give you an answer:

    I just assumed it was a political move on Pawlenty’s part more than anything. Maintaining a fiscally conservative position for when he runs for whatever office they’re speculating he plans to run for. I doubt he truly believes that stuff. But maybe I’m just too optimistic about human nature or too skeptical of politics.

    Where’s that quotation from? I would read something like that and just dismiss the writer as someone not worth listening to, unless the context suggests otherwise.

  2. Alison says:

    Yeah… it was a political move, based in the *appearance* of fiscal conservatism… but isn’t actually cheaper to do it the way he suggests (Pawlenty/Rep Dean’s solution is actually more expensive than the proposed bill to reinstate GAMC, and covers fewer people. if you want sources, i can get them to you later).

    But I’m more concerned with the logic of the commenter, who is really just a random commenter from an editorial on GAMC in the Strib. Yeah, he’s not someone I’d normally consider worth listening to, but if the idea of a democracy is that everyone has a voice, then whoever represents him is obligated to represent his voice, or at least listen to it. This guy represents a very real perspective, and a lot of people would agree with him. Being so embedded in this GAMC debate, it’s his perspective that I hear the most when I hear people talking about why they don’t support it.

    Fiscal conservatism, I can at least understand the theory behind it, even if I’d prefer bigger government than others. But politics based on a rationale of prejudice? That just sucks.

  3. Morgan Hubbard says:

    I dunno. This is really tough. One thing to keep in mind is that most of us are probably hardwired to apprehend objective reality (I think there is one) and then fit it into a pre-existing narrative worldview. Historiography is full of examples. The one everyone always goes to is: “The Civil War was about slavery!” “No, no. The Civil War was fought for ‘states’ rights’ against Northern aggressors!” Neither is fully accurate, but these interpretations have sticking power because they help shape a worldview–the former about a triumphant, progressive North, the latter about a victimized south. A narrative worldview makes reality easily understandable, when in fact reality is pretty much always super-complicated, and not definitely purposive. When people deserve censure is when they look at a situation like “there are vulnerable people uninsured and we could change that,” and they ignore the logical/compassionate responses and reach for the pre-existing narrative that social welfare creates a “culture of dependency,” whatever that means. Al, I’m glad you’re working in this field…I feel good knowing someone with your faculties is taking on these problems.

    This from Ala: If we judge a person’s worth based on his or her contribution to society, why should we want to provide health care for babies?

    Who is less useful than babies?

    They’re parasites! They take and take, and what do they give back? Also, because you sound like you’re in need of a laugh, there’s this:

  4. hungryhiccup says:

    to be honest, i used to be one of those people. i thought people in the U.S. who were poor or homeless were just lazy and unmotivated: in other words, they deserved it. because my parents worked so hard to come to this country and eventually became successful, i believed that anyone in the U.S. should be able to do so. i thought, poverty theoretically shouldn’t exist in the “land of opportunities,” like it does in china, or most other parts of the world, so the only logical explanation would be the fault of the people themselves.

    those were my naive opinions. when i started to actively interacted with struggling families in new york, through volunteering and work experiences, i realized how wrong i was. it’s easy to judge people on a generalized basis, but when i actually listened to their situations, i realized that it could happen to anyone-including myself. i’m just luckier than them, because i have a supportive family, which makes it possible for me to attend school, which makes it possible for me to find a job. how ungrateful would i be to ignore the people who aren’t as fortunate as me by brushing them off as simply lazy?

    i agree with you, alison, the only explanation that i can come up with for people in the government who genuinely believe that government aided health care programs for the poor endorse “greed,” is that they consciously ignore the problems the neediest of people face, in sacrifice for political gain.

  5. hungryhiccup says:

    by the way, al, you’re awesome and are doing awesome things. i wish there were more al’s in the world. =)

    i feel kind of useless blogging about random fruits when you’re actually trying to make a difference with your opinion.



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