OP-ED | Middle Class, Middle Aged, and Mad
I’m a hard-working, middle-aged, middle-class American, and I’m tired and angry.
I’m self-employed, and have several pre-existing health conditions, one of which involves mental health. I choose to be open about that in order to help the young people I write for, by showing them that you can have a diagnosed condition and still lead a productive and successful life with the right medication and treatment — if, and this is becoming an increasingly big if — you have insurance and can afford the co-pays.
You see I’m also caught in that middle-class conundrum of earning too much to get a subsidy, while facing ever-rising premiums and co-pays on the individual market, while getting decreasing services and access for the premiums I pay.
Before those of you on the right start blaming the Affordable Care Act and saying how wonderful it is that Congressional Republicans are working in secret to destroy it rather than fix it, save your breath. I have firsthand experience of life before ACA in the Connecticut high risk pool (their proposed solution for families like mine), and it was even more hellish than what we have now — incredibly expensive insurance with lifetime limits, limited coverage, and outlays for prescriptions rather than co-pays. I’ve also written before about how our health insurer played games with our cash flow and it took writing to their chairman, copied to my Congressional delegation, in order to get payment for over $10,000 in claims that they kept claiming were “lost.”
Now it seems that a small group of Congressional Republicans are working in secret to send millions of hardworking families like mine back to that nightmare, over the objections of most major medical experts — including the American Medical Association. So much for not coming between us and our doctors. You’ll remember that was one of their arguments against the ACA.
I am extremely grateful that our Democratic Senators are working hard to highlight the problems with both the process and the provisions of the ACHA bill. Yet I’m also tired of being constantly harangued for more of my money, time, and political energy while getting the distinct impression that they pay most attention to their richest and poorest constituents, while ignoring the voices in the middle because our political contributions are relatively small and our stories don’t make such compelling sound bites.
Last week, I taught at a writing conference from Thursday through Sunday: rewarding, but exhausting work. Over the weekend, I received an alert that Sen. Richard Blumenthal was holding an emergency field hearing about the ACHA bill in Hartford on Monday morning. The last thing I felt like doing was to schlep up to Hartford for that hearing, especially since I’d just received a long revision letter for my latest book, and am now, once again, facing an important deadline. But for all the reasons above, I felt it was critical to go. I arranged to carpool, checked to see how long the testimony could be (3 minutes) and wrote and timed mine on Sunday night, when I would have much rather been decompressing.
I should have just stayed home, got few more hours sleep, and worked on the stuff that pays my bills. The politicians and paid advocates present got to speak for much longer than three minutes, and my presence was that of an unpaid extra. Even if I’d been able to stay, I wouldn’t have been able to testify, because according to my colleague, the hearing was cut off before everyone’s voices were heard.
The senator’s office did contact me to tell me that there will be another hearing on Friday at 1:30 p.m. in New Haven, and I would have priority as someone who didn’t get to testify on Monday, but I explained that I’d already taken half a day of productive time to go to Hartford. When I don’t spend that time writing, I don’t get paid the money I need to pay my mortgage and yes, my health insurance. Besides, I didn’t just spend time traveling to the hearing and standing in the room listening to others and waiting to speak. I prepared for it by writing and timing my testimony.
It’s deeply frustrating that politicians on both sides of the aisle don’t seem to comprehend the realities of life for the self-employed in this so-called “gig-economy.” Our time is literally money, and companies want to pay less and less for it, while our living costs continue to increase.
On one side of the aisle, Republicans appear to be working diligently to remove what few protections remain for us — particularly if you’re a woman, where the national Republican Party appears to want to set back decades of progress.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the aisle, Democrats take our support for granted because “the other party is worse.”
Like most hard-working Americans, I am beyond tired of the hypocrisy and tit-for-tat partisanship. This bill literally affects our lives. We want to see politicians working toward real solutions for all Americans — not just for the richest, because they give members of both parties the biggest campaign donations, or because the conservative wing of the Republican Party is still obsessed with a disproved trickle-down economics ideology they got from reading Ayn Rand in high school.
We’re sick of watching our kids graduate from college into a world where companies offer fewer benefits, less (if any) on-the-job training, and have organized their corporate structures to avoid paying state and federal U.S. taxes. We watch state governments compete to hand over our hard earned taxpayer dollars to these companies in the form of low interest loans or other incentives, so they will “create or retain jobs.” And then we see these same companies leave anyway when it suits their long-term strategic objectives or they get a better offer elsewhere.
We’re tired of the same politicians who complained bitterly about the ACA, a bill that extended insurance to millions of Americans, being “rammed through” in “secret,” behaving even more secretively to ram through a deeply unpopular bill that the CBO previously estimated will take away healthcare for over 23 million people. Remember all that Sarah Palin-esque rhetoric about “Death Panels?” The real death panel consists of these 13 senators hiding in the basement of the U.S. Senate.
I hope giving rich donors a tax break on their investment income is worth it. It’s certainly not the Christian thing to do.
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and as such is an AAUP member), and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.