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We're Hurting the Most Vulnerable Members of our Society

Three headline-grabbing moves by the Trump administration and/or its supporters  this week showed the degree to which heartlessness, in the guise of conservative politics characterizes our present government. Its policies are directed at hurting the most vulnerable people in our country, often in favor of helping the rich or corporations. 

Twenty Republican dominated states, led by Texas, went to court to object to the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that, since its individual mandate, which had been declared a constitutionally approved tax, had been invalidated by the government charging zero taxes as the penalty, that this invalidated the entire Affordable Care Act, including its provisions for financing additional Medicare enrollments and mandating equal coverage for those with pre-existing medical conditions. Despite the Affordable Care Act being federal law, the U.S. Justice Department refused to defend either the individual mandate invalid or coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. Many congressional Republicans also backed the lawsuit. This week a Texas judge ruled in favor of Texas’ suit and declared the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. If this decision holds up in appeal, it would mean millions of Americans would lose health care coverage, would lose federal subsidies for their premiums, which are the heart of the Act, and those with pre-existing medical conditions would find themselves unable to be insured or faced with soaring premiums. President Trump hailed the judge’s decision as a victory. The working poor and the sick are the ones who will be hurt if this decision is upheld.

Under President Obama, a policy was passed that required loans given to students at for-profit colleges that misrepresented their job placement success and graduation rates or failed to provide the education they had promised, to be forgiven and students be made re-eligible for grants such as Pell Grants. Under Betsy DeVos, the Department of Education had delayed implementation of the forgiveness program for two years and sought a remedy more friendly to the colleges. Thankfully, a federal judge ordered the Department of Education to begin implementing the program immediately, over the objection of the Trump administration appointee, DeVos. The students affected are generally lower middle class, seeking employable skills and many of them went heavily into debt to finance the education, which they failed to receive.

Finally, after threatening to deport Vietnamese refugees who escaped from Vietnam prior to 1995, when diplomatic relations were established between the U.S. and  the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Trump administration has proposed going ahead with such mass deportations.   Going further than originally proposed, not only those non-U.S. citizens who have committed crimes would be deported, but also those who don't have adequate documentation of their resident status in the U.S. These are people who have been in the U.S. for at least 20 years, and most of then longer, with families and jobs and who would not be welcomed back into the present Vietnam. An agreement struck between the U.S. and the Vietnam government in 2008 protected these same pre-1995 refugees from being deported, but it needs to be renewed every five years and this is the anniversary of the second renewal. Thousands of Vietnamese, a group that have been very successful in becoming integrated with American society and made great contributions to the country and local communities, would face deportation. In my own work in the mental health field I am familiar with many refugees from these early years who came to the U.S. traumatized, had only sketchy documentation, as they escaped with only their shirts on their back Some of these people also subsequently suffered mental illnesses, which often got them arrested for such crimes public disturbance or assault, when they were exhibiting symptoms of mental illness. They are not criminals, but they have a record. They have families who depend upon them and upon which they depend. These families would be torn apart if this order is followed.

What these three situations have in common is that those who will suffer, or in the case of the Department of Education inaction, already have been, are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. This is a heartless attitude by our government toward these people and should be abhorred, not applauded by our leaders, including our president and his party. Instead, it seems part of an overall approach that disregards the welfare of  those people who are least able to defend themselves. These are shameful examples of uncaring governance.

Reader Comments (8)

We already have a long-standing insurance program for our most vulnerable people. It's called Medicaid and nearly 20% of the US population is on some form of this health care enfranchisement. The ACA was simply a Medicaid expansion meant to ensnare a larger segment of the population into its sphere, primarily through making false promises regarding choice and forcing young people to pay for a service they neither wanted nor needed. Many people are thankful this government-mandated insurance scam is coming to a just end. Health care isn't a human right; it's simply an insurance product in an industry run amok. There are many sound ways to reign-in the health care industry, but further government intervention will only make things worse- as witnessed by the incredibly horrid results of the ACA.

As far as student debt goes, as taxpayers we're obviously funding students who are coming out of college dumber and less capable than when they arrived. We should not be financing worthless degrees, especially anything with the word "studies" after its name. The only thing most of these students seem capable of doing after graduation is community organizing, protesting, social activism and engaging in identity politics. It's really a poor investment for our country to make. The purpose of education should be to create people capable of critical thinking and individual perspective, not to formulate ideological indoctrination and group-think. I would be for a debt forgiveness for former students based on a proportional relation to the amount of value they've generated in the work force. Again, higher education is not a human right; it's a costly service being misused by greedy universities, misguided educators and many deficient students who are actually just treading water and compiling debt at best....and at worst, many are growing more ignorant each time they walk into an alleged "learning space."

A person can only claim refugee status as long as the conditions that led that person to flee their home country remain extant. Once a refugee's home country reaches a point of non-conflict, they should be returned to their original home. The term refugee of course comes from the concept of "providing refuge," during a time of crisis, not granting someone permanent residency in a receiving humanitarian country.

The opinion-shaming and ethical finger-wagging in the final paragraph really doesn't serve you or your cause very well. You will never change a person's mind or even moderately influence a person's attitude by blatant virtue signaling and moral hectoring. You're not a better person than anyone with a different opinion than yours simply because you are allegedly militating on behalf of the "most vulnerable" people. Rather than exhorting the government to use more of our tax dollars to help these defenseless people, perhaps you could first sign-up to pay for a vulnerable person's health care or education. You could even take a handful of refugees into your home and give them food and shelter. That would be truly impressive and a truly heartfelt expression of principled commitment. That is the kind of commentary I want to read. That is the kind of commentary that brings about genuine changes in the mind's and heart's of those who are hopeful skeptics.

December 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

Mark: I don't usually reply to comments because then the discussion goes on and on. However three points need to be considered: 1. those vulnerable to removing the ACA are the working poor who don't qualify for Medicaid but receive a subsidy and those people on limited means, but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid who have chronic medical issues that are labeled pre-existing conditions, and in a free insurance market can't receive coverage or can't afford the coverage available at higher rates than others 2. The students whose loans were to be forgiven were students at for-profit technically oriented schools such as ITT Tech and Corinthian, not students pursuing "studies" with no practical application. The schools' promises were lies and the schools failed them, in some cases going out of business, leaving them with debt but no degree. 3. I happen to be married to a Vietnamese woman who escaped Vietnam before 1995 in a boat, lived in two refugee camps and arrived in the U.S. after two years. She earned a 4-year college degree and became a citizen before I married her. We have brought a Vietnamese family into our home for two years and have helped pay for college for a number of Vietnamese students. Both of us have provided mental health services to the Vietnamese community and I received a "Certificate of Appreciation" for my "support of mental health consumers and family members in the Vietnamese Community of Orange County" when I retired.

December 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

Mark - You complain of biased language and then refer to ACA as a government scam. Further, you ignore the changing realities of the government young people, women, immigrants and their allies are creating before your eyes. ACA is widely supported, whoremongering blowhards are not. Casey has far more patience than I, you are quite simply a deplorable and I have given you far more time than called for. I bequeath you the air behind my back.

December 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter J Mullins

From my personal experience it does come down to heart...all of it. Everything.

Heart, caring, compassion define our relation to our own self, to others and to nature.

Most importantly..how do we define the expanse of our heart. Is it simply meant to be some closed and sealed concept of self or does it allow in "others" does it accept family, tribe, nation, nature, cosmos as being within the boundary of heart or simply "me"? The danger is that the result of "me" thinking can lead to the withering of the society and the planet as each person maximizes (all for me) individual utility without contemplaing the systemic effect of their actions.
Seems to me we are infected by a lot of all for me thinkers. For thousands of years much of "humanity" has condoned war and genocide even omnicide as a way of gaining wealth, lifted up slavery of the individual to a master. and enshrined fundamental limitations of rights of people and nature.

It wasn't done because "all for me" thinkers are bad people. I was one and can speak from experience that I always felt I was helping people as they made me absurdly rich (top one hundredth of one-percent). Not only did I get rich by paying as little as possible to my poor workers, not paying more than the neggardly benefits provided by the laws my cohort created and paying the incredibly small amount of tax my peers also mandated...I even got awards. I crertainly didn't realize I was contributing to the destruction of people, families and the biosphere.

Our political discourse is one of ebb and flow. Originally, in our own country under the current second Constitution only white able-bodied male owners of property (land or slaves generally) could vote. Now with some difficulty others have gained limited rights of effective suffrage and may one day even be able to claim the other rights that most of the world agrees are inalienable...health care, education, being safe in their communities being among them. That clearly wasn't the intent of our "Founding Fathers" They changed the words of the Declaration of Independence "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to "life, liberty and the protection of property' in the Constitution some revere today. Clearly those old rich men cared more for their property than the people.

What if our Founding fathers had opened their hearts, created universal suffrage, prohibited slavery as other nations were doing, enshrined fundamental rights of education, health care, employment, housing, old age and child care as Franklin Rooseveldt did with his proposed second Bill of Rights and much of the world nodded to in th UN Declaration of Human Rights. What if they had trusted the wisdom of the people and created a real democracy instead of a government modeled on the laws and systems of England?

Maybe we would be a Super-Scandinavia now instead of learning that we the people have literally no right to clean air, food, a secure place to sleep or even water.

BTW ... Change is possible. I did....Our country can change too.

December 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

Casey- well said on all counts.

Peter- You do not exhibit the capacity to fairly enter this discussion. Didn’t it occur to you for even a moment that your response was both cringeworthy and an embarrassment?

Daniel- Aside from you initial pedantic moralizing or philosophizing, you seem to be making a point about the conquest ethic pursued throughout human history. It seems doubtful that this drive will ever be fully excised from human nature. It continues to exist in all places and in many people across the planet. The founding fathers are very poor examples of conquest-driven individuals. They did manage to create the most free, just and self-correcting government in human history.

Thankfully, FDR was only able to impose a fragment of his socialist, racist plans within our country. Republicans were able to limit some his worst impulses just as they have been fighting the crimes of the Democrats since the party’s inception. The Republican fight against the Democrat platforms of slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, the KKK, lynching and black disenfranchisement in The New Deal programs continues even today with Republicans trying to rid this country of the Modern Democrat Plantations stagnating for decades in the ghettos, barrios and reservations. These sad places are blatant examples of what happens when groups of people allow themselves to be bought off with the promise of a few crumbs by charlatans, thieves and racists every election cycle.

December 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

Daniel- thanks for your ethically informed historical position. I agree that the system America inherited from the Brits was deeply flawed, if only we'd got the parliamentary aspect right all of central and South America might've copied a more truly representative government.

December 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeter J Mullins

Mark-- I was actually surprised that FDR, a Democrat, would have promulgated a 2nd Bill of Rights. But the Democrats like the Republicans have a history of buying off the people with symbolic reforms much as you seemed to allude to..."...when groups of people allow themselves to be bought off with the promise of a few crumbs by charlatans, thieves and racists every election cycle." The reforms granted, promised or discussed during the new deal era were buyoffs for much deeper systemic change called for by popular leaders not by party ideologues. The Democratic Party leadership didn't dream up social security or unemployment insurance or advocate a limit to private wealth and income. Those were brought forth by people movements whose leaders are largely ignored in current history or were assassinated in their time.
As to the differences in the results of either Democratic or Repunlican governmental leadership for the last generation I see none, only a commonality of stealing the wealth and life of our peoplr and our nation for the enrichment of a deplorably tiny few..
Otherwise...I imagine you might agree with the famous words of Kurt Vonnegut..."Live by the lies that make you happy."...at least untill reality pops in and we are annihilated by global warming or nuclear bombs.

December 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDariel Garner

There is no doubt that outside political and social forces were both conjunct and influential in New Deal policies. However, this happened under complete Democrat control of Congress and the Executive Branch. And the awful compromises that left blacks and Native Americans excised from the socialist benefits of the New Deal are entirely owned by Democrats. Those discriminatory practices were conceived and legislated by Democrats who were determined to let the most vulnerable citizens subsist on those proverbial crumbs.

The difference in the parties is that most Republicans think that any Americans, including minorities, can be wildly successful if given a fair chance. Thankfully, equal access to opportunity has been largely achieved. However, it seems that most Democrats believe that minorities will never be able to compete fairly based on historical iniquities. That sort of bigotry is grossly insulting to large swaths of Americans who have transcended difficult circumstances through their own hard work, talent and learned competency. The only thing they really had to overcome is the biased denigration of Democrats who truly don’t see these citizens as having equal capacity.

December 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

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