Friday, July 31, 2009

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

I am back from Vermont and the Olympic Peninsula and a couple writing conferences. The hiatus is over. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose: the more things change the more they remain the same.

Here we are, once again (still?!) in the midst of political infighting. And the people who need services that the government provides are the ones who suffer.

In Illinois, for example, the budgets have been cut for social services. That means that case workers - and subsequently caseloads - at the various charities that oversee social services are cut. Why should we care about this, us middle class humps who are working to pay our taxes and saving to pay for college for our kids and grandkids, and scrimping to buy gas and food that has gone up recently and - the list goes on and the mind boggles?

One reason is that social services go to people who have severe mental illnesses - and who will end up on the street. No, my dears, it isn’t only alcoholics and ne’er-do-wells who panhandle. A lot of street people have been let loose with perhaps a five- day supply of meds to keep their illnesses under control. When they use up their meds, they use up the modicum of sanity they once had.

That is not to say all those who are mentally ill end up on the street or that all those on the street are mentally ill. A lot of people on the street are like you and me: three paychecks away from homelessness. But their three paychecks are up, and their safety nets have expired too.

I am not in favor of throwing money at people who find ways to self-medicate, abuse my generosity, or subvert the system to their own ends. On the other hand, I do not want to end up knifed in the kidneys (figuratively [consider Bernie Madoff] or literally [as in paranoid schizophrenic] by someone the government could have easily taken care of.

Unfortunately, this is just one of the barest of problems facing citizens of Illinois. We are also dealing with “education.” Somehow lawyers in legislatures feel they know more about education than those trained to teach do. They end up legislating ways (More tests! More tests!) to warehouse kids in school and keep them off the streets for the cheapest price possible rather than to help them learn to learn.

On a national level the political infighting is just as bad and just as exhausting. The selection of a Supreme Court Justice has become the current political shuttlecock, being smacked by both sides. How will women and historically Republican Hispanics react to Republicans voting against Sonia Sotomayor? has become the question rather than Will she be a good justice? They have microscoped her life and discovered, then investigated every time she scratched her ass, but that doesn’t have anything to do with her ability to be a good judge.

And national health care. The people who need health care most are the ones who suffer because we do not provide health care in this country. Rather, we pay ungodly sums to gatekeepers of health care, people who decide whether or not we deserve it - if we have insurance. If we don’t have insurance we are totally screwed.

My insurance company has begun sending me notices of ways to live healthily: You have high blood pressure so we recommend you exercise regularly and eat fewer calories each day. Oh, and by the way, that medication that works to keep your BP at safe levels? You can’t use it because it’s too expensive. Try an extra fish oil caplet each day instead, or you can get these first generation meds that cause galloping diarrhea, but you can eat more fiber. Duh!

In the mean time, when we have a claim, they “lose” it so it has to be re-submitted. Then they deny it. Then we appeal. Then they say then never got it. Then we write more letters. Then they say we’re beyond the deadline. Then we finally call our state representative and it’s taken care of in three business days and we begin again.

Or they say, “We gave you a pre-approval number, but that means we didn’t approve it in advance, that means we are thinking about approving it, see, pre means before and pre-approval is literally before approval.”

We don’t have health care in these United States, we have gate keepers who prohibit access to good health care too many times.

And while people are dying on the streets, and services are being cut, and those who need to see doctors can’t afford to, the politicians in Washington, who brag that they have the best health care in the world - government subsidized to the nth degree, of course - don’t understand why the rest of us are angry.

Nor do they understand that they were elected to do what is best for the people. That means that lobbyists should NOT write legislation. That means the elected officials should read and understand the bills they vote on. That means junkets get charged to us, and pork is exactly that: pork.

But the infighting continues, and I suspect it has less to do with principles of party and more to do with pocket lining.

And the people who need government services continue to suffer.

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