Strange bedfellows indeed

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Here’s the origin of that term from Dictionary.com:

Baseball just brought together at least 750,000 people in Houston, and not because of misery.

My beloved 2017 World Series Champions have been all over the place. Even you non-Houstonians might have caught a glimpse of them on The Tonight Show or SNL. We’ve also seen news coverage of them at Texans and Rockets games and celebrating at Disney World. Everyone has seen the marriage proposal (Correa) and none of us were invited to the Tuscany wedding (Verlander), though they did release a picture or two of the happy couple.

Last Friday, I was with all of them. (Except for the one who was already on his way to Italy.) I couldn’t resist joining the crush of Astros fans for the downtown parade and celebration. I didn’t have much of a view of any of it, but it was still fun to people watch and cheer and just be there.

After the parade, the official rally took place on the steps of City Hall. All any of us wanted to do was cheer the team, but first they had to introduce all the politicians in attendance. Mayor Sylvester Turner: rousing applause. Gov. Greg Abbott: smattering of applause. Lt Gov Dan Patrick (whose legislative priority is the ‘bathroom bill’): roundly booed. Sen Ted Cruz: more robust booing. County Judge Ed Emmett (top Harris County official) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (queen of the photo op): smattering of applause. I didn’t realize that I had so much in common with my fellow Astros fans. Sports and politics, strange bedfellows indeed.

 

 

How did we get here?

When I’m not worried about future generations having a planet to live on, I worry about current generations having access to healthcare. The daily prompt today from WordPress is “carousel” which is oddly fitting to a post on the US health insurance system. How did the US’s current healthcare carousel get built in the first place? And why are so many people yelling, “stop this carousel, I want to get off?”

I generally knew that the current employee-based system started, like so many of our social safety net programs, with FDR. I ran across these posts which very quickly and simply explain how it started, and how quickly it became entrenched. Read part 1 here and part 2 here. Basically it began as a tax-break to help control wage and price inflation, but it was so popular that, politically, there was no going back.

Before the employee-based system, people could buy individual or family insurance plans that covered major items like hospitalization, but all routine costs were paid out-of-pocket. So let’s see, has anything changed since the 1930’s (individual insurance plans) or 1940’s (the beginning of employee-based care)? Is it any wonder that either of those models won’t work today?

Life expectancy in the US has risen by approximately 17 years since 1930. This is not because we have engineered a better human (yet), but mostly because of advances in medicine. Amazing, remarkable, expensive advances in medicine. Sometimes I think the public and our elected officials forget this.

Although I didn’t bother to research hard numbers on this, the employment picture has changed, too. People change jobs more often. The giant manufacturing industries of the rust belt have given way to more entrepreneurial, smaller businesses. And why should the ability to even have access to insurance be governed by your employer, or your employment status, or your marital status? Or by the whims and financial bottom line of insurance companies?

I get that medical care isn’t a constitutional right. But does anyone really think that it is less important than the right to carry a gun around? Ok, let me rephrase that, SHOULD anyone really think that the ability to carry a gun around should be more guaranteed by the government than the ability to get medical care?

I didn’t use to think America was ready to make the leap to the single-payer system. I honestly thought that our politicians would be able to build on the progress started with Obamacare and slowly move to improving the access to healthcare and healthcare insurance for all Americans. And then an election happened. I now believe that there is no sustainable political reality that will support taking a series of small steps to anywhere. Our politicians are taking us for a ride, not on a carousel of progress, but on the same old carousel that just goes round and round and round. Fortunately for me, I may be getting dizzy, but I’m still on the ride. Too many Americans can’t even get a ticket to get on.

 

Accountability

The written word introduces a certain level of authority to language. It’s why we sign written contracts and read the fine print. I think it’s also why we write down to-do lists and resolutions; not just to help us remember, but also to make us, somehow, a little more accountable. This is why I always finish everything on my to-do list and stick to all my New Years’, Lenten, and summertime resolutions.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Ok, but seriously, I think I do better when I write things down. When I write in this blog about things that I want to do, I feel that y’all become my accountability accomplices. Sure, I bothered to blog about it because it is something I really want to do, but now I’ve told other people that I want to do these things. I know that y’all don’t really care if I follow through. I know that I’m only disappointing myself, but the extra motivation from imagining that I might leave someone else disappointed in me is what just might keep me going. I feel like I’ve been making some promises to us in recent posts and I think it’s time for an accountability check.

Taking better care of myself. Eating healthier, exercising more – I’m at a total failure point on this one right now. I need to right the ship, set some concrete action plans, and refocus. And to be honest with us, I’m not ready to make that happen just now. I know from past attempts that if I try when my mind is not in the right place, there will be no success.

Hurricane season preparation. The emergency food and water has been purchased and set aside. I do still need to go thru the important papers cache. And I promise us that I will pay attention and act accordingly if there is a legitimate hurricane threat.

Reading challenge. I have not abandoned the reading challenge that you gave me. I am currently reading Silas Marner, by George Eliot who is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. She had a successful career as a literary editor and critic, but chose a male pen name for her own fiction so that her novels might be taken more seriously, both because male writers were taken more seriously in the 1860’s and because her personal lifestyle choice of living openly with a married man raised a lot of eyebrows.

The politics of gun control. I’ve ranted a bit about politics and policy, and last week I promised to write to my elected officials. Usually, I am not the person that does that, but the Orlando shooting really shook me up (again.) I had jotted down a couple of possible letters and was investigating whether email or snail mail would be better when I heard about the Chris Murphy filibuster. With C-span on in the background, I fired off short emails to Sen. Cruz, Sen. Cornyn, and Rep. Culberson. I just wanted to make sure that if they were doing any sort of counting of constituent opinions that they would count me as in favor of some gun control regulations. As I listened to more of the filibuster and the legislation that Murphy was supporting, I wrote a second, longer email to Cornyn about how I supported the specific measures being “debated.” (I knew there was no further point in writing to Cruz.) I was surprised and pleased to receive a thoughtful response from Cornyn’s office. I’m sure it was written by a staffer, but it felt personal and not just a form letter reply. He, of course, disagreed with me, but he thanked me for writing and being engaged in the political process and then he told me what he was doing that he felt would be effective in combating gun violence, legislatively addressing the problem from the mental health side and encouraging enforcement of existing laws. I wasn’t quite ready to just agree to disagree so I wrote back to acknowledge that gun violence is a big, multi-faceted problem, but that to ignore that the weapons themselves are a part of the problem is short-sighted. I still need to send a letter or email to my elected officials in Austin. It’s so little, and it likely accomplishes nothing, but it is a small something. And I do still believe that if enough small steps are taken, there might one day be some big movement in the right direction.

Thanks for reading along. Feel free to call my bluff on anything I write about in Thoughts From The Back. Also, feel free to tackle anything on my to-do list, I’m happy to out-source the actions as well as the accountability.

Welcome To My World

*Deep breath*

Welcome to my world. Welcome to OUR world. Welcome to our flawed and sometimes really, really shitty world.

Welcome to my world. Here is the list of my elected officials along with their NRA Rating:

  • US Rep John Culberson – 100%, also received the 4th highest amount of NRA contributions on any US Representative
  • US Sen Ted Cruz – 100%, in his presidential run, received the 2nd highest amount of NRA contributions (Ben Carson won this dubious category)
  • US Sen John Cornyn – 93%
  • TX Gov Greg Abbot – 100%
  • TX Lt Gov Dan Patrick – 93%
  • State Rep Jim Murphy – 92%
  • State Sen Joan Huffman – 93%

It is long past time to enact some common sense gun control legislation. I never correspond with my elected officials, but I promise that all of the above will hear personally from me. My message will be simple. We’ve tried the experiment that more guns, made easier to obtain, will make America safer. Let’s try less guns. Let’s make it a little bit more inconvenient to buy and own and carry them. Let’s at least clamp down on guns that have no purpose except to kill people with excessive amounts of bullets.

It doesn’t matter how many people I agree with on twitter, “liking” tweets doesn’t make my world any better. I could do more research and try to fill this post with facts and statistics that support what I believe to true. You’ve heard and read and seen it all though. You already know all the facts and statistics there are to support what you believe to be true. Surely we do all believe that gun violence is not a good thing. There must be steps that we can take to make there be less of it.

It took me, the amateur wordsmith, six steps: guns -> duns -> dons -> done -> dove -> love

It’s time for America and the american political establishment to take the first step. Because if we, all of us, don’t take the first step, we’ll never get there.