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They just don’t get it

Hal Sundin
As I See It
Hal Sundin
Staff Photo |

It is all too obvious from their comments that our politicians and lawmakers are out of touch with reality, and just don’t get it concerning the financial struggle tens of millions of American families are facing trying to provide education for their children, and the basics such as health care and food for their children and themselves. Here are a few examples:

• If you don’t have enough money for college, borrow from your parents. College tuition today averages 15 times what it cost in 1970, while the average worker’s income has increased to only 5 times what it was in 1970, putting a college education out of the reach of increasing numbers of families. Only the well-off can any longer afford a college education for their children, and the opportunity for upward mobility for the children of the working class is declining.

• A single-payer health care plan for everyone (similar to Medicare) would be “socialized medicine,” (like they have in Europe), and we sure don’t want that. There is no question that the new health care plan — christened “Obamacare” — is a monstrosity cobbled together by a Congress (incidentally, nicely covered by the federal employee’s health plan, generously subsidized by the government and costing them less than $400 per month) dedicated to insuring that the special interests — the health-insurance, pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries, hospitals, and medical malpractice attorneys — all continue to have their place in the front row at the trough, increasing the cost of health care in the U.S. by at least 50 percent.

But we definitely need something better than the system we have depended on for decades, provided by insurance plans totally or partially paid for by employers or purchased by individuals who could afford them, that are increasingly being dropped because of rising costs. This has left nearly 50 million people totally without health insurance. We need to discard the “socialized medicine” boogeyman we have been fed, and adopt a single-payer universal health plan covering everyone, modeled after Social Security and Medicare. The young and healthy, who oppose such a plan because they don’t think they need it, should recognize that a single accident or unexpected serious medical condition could bankrupt them. Most of them don’t think their house will burn down, but they buy homeowner’s insurance — just in case.

• Cutting back on food stamps would force people to get a job. Why don’t these people acquire the skills required to be successful like me, and get off the dole? Why should poor kids eat free? These comments display a heartless disregard for the millions of Americans who struggle every day just to feed, cloth, and provide shelter for their families. The reason so many are now jobless is that many of the jobs that supported the middle class no longer exist due to automation and sending jobs to countries with lower pay scales, and cutting food stamps will not create jobs. Furthermore, a majority of the jobs available do not pay enough to put food on the table. People caught in this situation, many of whom are single parents, have to work two or three low-paying jobs trying to survive, and have neither the time and energy nor the money to train for the hope of a better job — that may not exist. Look at the high percentage of college graduates who are having trouble finding jobs that offer an income adequate for them to pay off their loans.

Those who criticize the poor as being a burden on society are likely to have entered the job market in the last few decades of the 20th century, when a prosperous middle class, which had been created by a healthy manufacturing economy, was supporting a thriving economy. They should recognize the fact that all that has changed, and may never return. They should be thankful for their good fortune in being born into those good times, but apparently are incapable of empathizing with those who are caught in the current weak labor market.

Our politicians, in their splendid isolation from the realities of the working poor, have created ill-conceived legislation that keeps families on food stamps. As it now stands, if their income rises above the poverty level, recipients lose food stamps altogether (and child-care benefits as well), leaving them even worse off. Congress has also failed to raise the minimum wage to match the cost of providing basic necessities — food, shelter, clothing, and transportation. They just don’t get it.

— “As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at asicit1@hotmail.com.


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