There are usually dozens of kids either in-room or playing in the playroom at the hospital where I volunteer once a week. Some are patients and some are siblings. Some are hooked up to medications, and some are waiting to be. Some are thin and wasted from chemo, others are plump and puffy from steroids. Some have hair, and some have wigs, and some are bald.
Some are there every week. Some just for a bit.
We’re not supposed to have favorites, but I do. One of mine was a girl of around six, who passed away earlier this week. She didn’t like me very much. She never wanted to knit. She liked to play with paper and paint and color. Her outfits were unbelievably fantastic, bright colors that rarely matched (especially when she chose a multitude of pinks). She liked sparkle and she liked shine. When she had no hair, she would wear a pink foil fringe around her face.
I can’t imagine what her parents are going through now. I know that they did everything humanly possible, but I also know that knowledge doesn’t make one feel better. Children get sick. Sometimes, they don’t make it. There is no fairness to it.
Which brings me to this week’s government shutdown, and the continuing fight over the Affordable Care act, known colloquially as Obamacare.
Congress couldn’t pass a temporary budget, so on Tuesday the government went into a partial shutdown. If you tune into the mainstream media, the first thing they mention is that this means the national parks are closed. Maybe they do this because so many of the reporters on this story live in the Washington, DC area, and this is what they see. Or maybe they do it because parks are photogenic. I like parks. Nothing I say here should be considered in any way to be anti-park.
But there are other important areas of our lives that are losing time as well as money when the government shuts down. People can’t get mortgages for their homes. People can’t get passports. People can’t apply for Social Security (although those getting benefits will continue to receive them, so we won’t see an immediate increase in starving old people on our streets). Food and drug inspectors are not inspecting our food nor our drugs.
And kids can’t get into clinical trials for cancer cures because the NIH has no money.
And all this is happening because a minority of Congressional representatives (although a majority of the Republicans) want to overturn Obamacare, and will not pass a (temporary) budget until they get their way.
It is not my intention here to say that the most conservative Republicans are in favor of little kids dying slow, painful deaths from cancer. Although I might think it sometimes, I know it to be a useless rhetorical position.
I will, however, say that, for all their opposition to big government, they have yet to propose a better way to do cancer research/provide nice parks/insure safe food. The Free Market may be a wonderful thing, but comparison shopping not what’s at the top of your mind when you find a lump, or start coughing up blood.
It is especially unconscionable for them to use their objections to the ACA to shut off services for the rest of us. According to The New York Times, they might have bullied Obama into making some concessions down the road. He has, however, grown more of a spine than he did when first proposing the law (when single-payer or a public option was whipped off the table to placate the GOP, which ignored the gesture entirely) and won’t negotiate on the current terms. Here’s what I consider to be the key quote:
“As soon as we get a clean piece of legislation that reopens the government — and there is a majority for that right now in the House of Representatives — until we get that done, until we make sure that Congress allows Treasury to pay for things that Congress itself already authorized, we are not going to engage in a series of negotiations,” Mr. Obama told CNBC, a cable business-news channel.
We don’t negotiate with terrorists. Unfortunately, that means that some people, like Indiana Republican representative Marlin Stutzman, will take his ball and go home. “We’re not going to be disrespected,” he told the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”
Yeah, let’s all get salmonella from tainted lettuce because Stutzman can’t lose face.
Here’s the thing. I’m not crazy about Obamacare. It doesn’t solve the problems of the health care system in this country (the 37th greatest health care system in the world!), which include stupidly high prices, unequal distribution of services, and wildly varying standards of care. Already, even before January when it kicks in, The Times nailed the most obvious problem:
“A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance…. Because they live in states largely controlled by Republicans that have declined to participate in a vast expansion of Medicaid, the medical insurance program for the poor, they are among the eight million Americans who are impoverished, uninsured and ineligible for help. The federal government will pay for the expansion through 2016 and no less than 90 percent of costs in later years.”
I’m not going to argue that the GOP is in favor of kids getting cancer. They seem to be making that argument all by themselves.
Martha Thomases, Media Goddess, thinks we should mint the damn coin already.