Thursday, September 21, 2006

Walls and Other Boondoggles

So, you’re worried about your health care. If you have it, you’re worried that you’re going to keep losing parts of it (the ever increasing deductible), even as your rates continue to rise astronomically. If you don’t have it – you’re afraid of getting sick. You’re worried about the cost of prescription drugs. You may have a lump, or a pain that you don’t even want to have looked at, because you’re afraid it will be something expensive, and you can’t afford to deal with that. You figure it’s actually cheaper to die than to get sick. You’re also worried about the cost of heating your house this winter, of paying for gas, and sending your kids to college.

Good news! Congress just voted (228-196) for a bill that would require all voters to show photo ID proving they are citizens. That same bill approved the building of a 700 mile fence at the US – Mexico border. This same Congress has spent a lot of time on a flag burning amendment, as well as an amendment that would limit the rights of gay folks. Aren’t you feeling happy that your concerns are a big priority in Washington, DC??

The big hue and cry about the fence is supposed to be connected to national security. As we all know, we get harassed a lot more at airports. Some of us are on no fly lists, which take various permutations. Some folks actually aren’t allowed to fly. Some (like me) are always hauled out of line for wanding, frisking, and a thorough search of all carry-ons and checked luggage. This provides the illusion that we are somehow safer. We aren’t supposed to think about the sad state of port security, or the near total lack of scrutiny of incoming cargo. Instead, our legislators are hysterically hyping the need to keep our borders safe from terrorists!! There’s no time to be concerned about the sorry state of American health care, not when Mexicans might fly more planes into skyscrapers! The fence is projected to cost $3 million per mile, which works out to be $568.18 per mile. No word yet on who, exactly will be building this wall (can anyone say HALLIBURTON?) or whether citizenship papers and ethnic purity documents will be required for this job. One thing is for sure – the money to pay for it will not come out of the bloated Pentagon’s mismanaged budget. The cuts will yet again be made in programs that provide supplemental food to seniors, and other frivolous social programs.

The NH GOP has been working steadily for decades to increase the barriers to voter participation, so it’s really no surprise that Congress has begun to do the same. If that bill passes the Senate, we must all show photo ID at the polls in 2008. No word on how our volunteer poll workers will be trained in checking ID, how much that training will cost, or who will pick up the tab. A lot of folks vote on their lunch hour. Standing in a long line while ID is checked is likely to discourage voters, especially those who have to get back to work. Discouraging voters is the goal – because the GOP believes that poor and minority voters will vote for the other party. Representative Dan Burton is quite concerned that undocumented workers are voting. He didn’t voice any concern about the electronic voting machines with no paper trail, where the votes are counted in secret by the employees of the voting machine company. Every election brings a lot of sad faced commentary about how little voter turnout there is – so it’s heartening to see that Congress is working hard to guarantee that low turnout gets even lower.

Our own Congressman Jeb Bradley has been puffed up with pride that he voted for the REAL ID Act, which is going to give us all a national ID card, and our personal information will be stored in a national database. It seems that Congressman Bradley is working hard to ensure that we will all be sporting all manner of identification, for nearly every occasion. It’s great to see him working so hard to address the issues that most concern his constituents. Worried about the increases in tuition and student loans? There’s probably an ID for that – just ask your Congressman.

Grassroots candidate Carol Shea Porter won the recent Democratic primary, and will be challenging Bradley in November. Within 12 hours of Shea Porter’s win, Bradley launched an attack at Ms. Shea Porter. “The Howard Dean wing of the party was successful yesterday and that wing is far from reflective of mainstream NH voters, and even NH Democrats,” said Bradley. Shea Porter is calling for a set time frame for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. She is also advocating single payer health care. I hear people talk about both of those things all the time – yet Congressman Bradley is calling those views “out of the mainstream.” Bradley assures us that market forces will solve our health care problems. He has a lot invested in that concept, as Harper’s Magazine revealed recently. Congressman Bradley has millions of dollars in stock in pharmaceutical companies, as well as oil, and energy. No wonder he’s happy with the status quo – he’s well insulated from the economic realities the rest of us face.

In this electoral season, don’t let the phony distraction noise overwhelm you. Make a list of your top concerns, and ask the candidates how they plan to address them. Ask the incumbents why they aren’t addressing them. If you get a filibuster instead of an answer, keep pressing till you get an answer. You’re still the incumbent’s employer of record, and you have the right and the responsibility to hold them accountable.

“I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him “father.” Will Rogers.

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