06 October 2013

Lani from Honolulu, HI  


Lani is a long way from home. She is a 25-year old "federal employee" living in Washington, DC after graduating from George Washington University Law School.

"I didn't take this job to make a lot of money. I did it to give back and to serve people. But I'm living paycheck-to-paycheck."

Lani has a 50-minute commute to work, one-way, each day. She lives so far away because housing is impossibly expensive any closer to the city. Even now, she lives with two roommates.

"I work a lot and don't really do any of the things my peers are doing. I just can't afford them. I pay rent, I eat, and I go to work. There goes my paycheck."

Money is tight, and one thing haunts Lani every day:  failure. "I can't just go home. I couldn't afford the plane ticket."

Lani was understandably upset by what she heard from one particular Republican partisan strategist today: "This shutdown isn't that big of a deal for federal employees as it is for small businesses. We're going to win this thing no matter how long it takes."

Lani was livid, "That makes me sick. So you're saying my job is worth less? What do they think I do for a living? And who are they to make that sort of qualitative judgment? We're all just collateral damage to them, and that is so wrong!"

She is no slouch, though, and recognizes the political reality: "I know what this is about. Republicans want to strip Obamacare and that's just a no-go with Democrats. I don't know what the answer is, but I find the argument incredibly disingenuous because Obamacare went active on October 1st anyway. It's not part of this CR fight."

Asked what she would do if she was in Congress right now: "There's a difference between standing on principle and harming other people. Why would you dramatically alter the lives of everyday Americans just to make a point about a federal program that is not related to the fight you're having? It's just the kind of politics that makes people uninterested in the process and gets more extreme Congressmen elected in the first place."

Republicans see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat, just as they did during the arguments over Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare. To them, a free society means living in a place where you shouldn't have to give a damn about your neighbors, and especially not if it hurts your pocketbook. "I earned this," they say.

But they're not entirely wrong.

Democrats, on the other hand (and not all of them, some of them can be as obtuse as their contemporaries on the other side), see America as a place that requires care for your neighbor and a government that reflects that. Our government should reflect the best qualities about her citizens, including "do unto others as you would have done unto you."

Yet sometimes, this issue leads to an over-reaching of government power. Second- and third-order effects of good-faith policies can have bad consequences for regular people.

The issue with this debate is that the "defund Obamacare" tirade currently being carried out is untenable. If acceded to, what is the recourse? Another 70+ years without reliable access to basic health care that doesn't break the bank for families and the elderly?

The Affordable Care Act is not perfect. It needs to be changed, updated, and tinkered with to ensure that it is as fair as possible while covering as many people as is humanly possible. Charity should not be discounted, either. But the principle of reliable access to basic health care for all American citizens is not up for negotiation, and we are not going to wait another century for it to happen again.

Therefore, Congress:  pass a clean CR. Hell, shock us all, and pass a budget for once! 

Let's roll. 

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