Word on the street is that Congress is not getting much love from the public. However, when you look at the polls, everyone hates Congress, but they’re okay with their Representatives and Senators. I’m not. I’m not happy with any of the games they’re playing lately. For the record, I’m a registered Republican, though the Republican party left me the minute they started making laws calling for me to be held in detention until I could prove my legal status in the country based solely on how I look. That was it.
So why am I not a Democrat? My wife wonders the same thing. But that’s for a post at some other juncture in our relationship.
Right now, I want to answer to my Representative, Mr. Scott Perry, Republican for the 4th Congressional District in Pennsylvania. He wrote the following op-ed piece, and… Well… You’ll see:
“During my first nine months in office, three issues repeatedly have been raised by the constituents of the 4th Congressional District. First, they want us to hold Washington accountable and deal with its nearly $17 trillion debt. Second, after meeting with many health care professionals, small businesses and citizens, almost no one has any idea what the implementation of Obamacare will look like. Finally, everyone wants Congress to work together and focus on making our economy health again. I didn’t run for Congress to shut down the federal government. I ran for Congress because I’m worried that the America I help pass on to my two daughters will be weaker than the one I and other Americans of my generation inherited. Dozens of constituents, regardless of political affiliation, have shared that same concern with me. We’re nearly $17 trillion in debt. If we keep going like this we will bankrupt programs like Social Security and Medicare. We can’t keep spending money we don’t have. At the same time, countless small business owners have told me they’ll have to stop hiring, cut hours and cancel pay raises because their health insurance premiums are expected to skyrocket under Obamacare. And they can’t even begin to understand the new regulations with which they’re forced to comply. So I listened to their concerns and sought to defund or delay Obamacare. Look at your own household budget. My guess is your income has remained flat, while your health care and other costs keep going up. Another guess is that many of your family and friends are in the same boat, if they’re lucky enough to still have a full-time job. Does anyone think the status quo is working? So House Republicans listened to the people we serve and went to work. We proposed common-sense solutions to control spending on the fastest-growing parts of our budget, grow our economy and create opportunity for all Americans, while reducing government regulation of small businesses and our healthcare. We knew that President Obama and Senate Democrats would have their own priorities. So we put our cards on the table and sent these bills to the Senate, waiting for them to pass their own versions so we could eventually come together to try and find some common ground. In nearly every case, our proposals were met with silence. President Kennedy once said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” When we have a disagreement in our homes, with sit down with our family member(s) and talk about how to address the issue. That’s exactly what we’re asking from Harry Reid and the Senate. Instead of pretending there’s not a problem and just putting more money on the national credit card, why not sit down and negotiate for a common sense solution to our $17 trillion national debt? The last thing I want is a government shutdown. Right now, 800,000 federal employees are on furlough and many needs of our citizens are not being met. In the last few days, House Republicans tried to comprise on numerous occasions and received the same answer: “We will not negotiate.” The House continues to try and resolve this disagreement, but without a willing participant on the other side it’s impossible to move forward. Rather than refusing to negotiate and comparing Republicans to suicide bombers, as one of President Obama’s senior advisers did last week, the president and Senate Democrats should work in good faith with the House to keep the government open and work together to control our spending and lay the groundwork for a healthy economy. I’m here and ready to work until we re-open the federal government, reduce our unsustainable debt and get America moving again. And I won’t take another paycheck until we get that job done.”
Where to begin?
Mr. Perry, while it is troubling to me that we have a $17 trillion debt, what is more troubling is that you’re willing to default on that debt out of an apparent obsession with the Affordable Care Act, which you and your party continue to think calling it “Obamacare” will somehow make it unpallatable to the public. Instead, you’re confusing the public. Defaulting on that debt will have really bad consequences to all those businessmen and businesswomen you claim to want to protect from the horrors of the ACA. You just go ahead and try to go about repealing the ACA with your methods and well see how the economy collapses.
Second, you could very well read the Affordable Care Act, hire some lawyers if you need them, and ask the agencies and cabinet members in charge of implementing it to explain it to you so that you, in turn, can go to those people in our district who don’t have “any idea what the implementation of Obamacare will look like.” What you are doing is irresponsible. If tomorrow you pass a complex law dealing with car seats for kids, will not want to explain it to your constituents. Of course you would! This whole silly game of not understanding is just partisan politics. I may even be inclined to believe that you’re lying that you don’t understand.
Next, yes, my income has remained flat. In fact, it has gone down since I left my job to go to school. But you know what? I am actively working through my education and advocacy in public health to try and reduce the cost of healthcare to the public. What are you doing? You’re not even proposing an alternative to the ACA that will beat what the President and the Democrats offered. If it’s so bad, and if healthcare costs keep rising, what you do propose we should do? Whining like a child with hurt feelings is not going to reduce the cost of healthcare, a cost that has always been on the rise no matter what party official was in the White House.
Your idea of compromise is not to compromise, Mr. Perry. Face it, you will take nothing less than anything which guts the Affordable Care Act. How is that you being flexible? How is that a first step in a negotiation? It’s like you coming to my house and telling me that you’ll burn it down if I don’t come out and then shoot me if I do. In this example, burning down the house is you and your like-minded Republicans shutting down the government and threatening to default on the United States’ credit obligations; shooting me is to defund the best thing we have right now to provide me healthcare while I’m in school.
Conspiracy theorists say that you need to follow the money. Mr. Perry, although you’re not taking a paycheck until this impasse that you created goes away, you’re still getting campaign contributions. You’re still getting healthcare paid for by us. Your gym at the Capitol is still open, for God’s sake! And you’ll get a nice, lifelong pension once you’re done sitting atop Mount Olympus. So I’m not surprised that you don’t feel a sense of urgency in what is happening.
Open the government back up so we can get CDC, FDA, and USDA disease investigators and food inspectors back to work to contain this and other outbreaks of foodborne illness in different states. Then submit a bill in Congress that competes with “Obamacare”. And then, if you really want to earn my respect, give up your lifelong pension for serving in Congress and do not seek reelection, lest absolute power corrupts you even further.
Come on, Mr. Perry, stop playing political games. You’re going to get someone seriously hurt, and for what? There are better ways to reach our goals of affordable healthcare, lower unemployment, and lower debt than what you’re doing right now.
Be part of that Republican Party that won me over as a new immigrant because you could balance budgets, get people and employed and keep them there, and all not at the expense of the poor, the minorities, and without taking away anyone’s voice.
This is America, Mr. Pery. We’re a Banana Republic where obsessed politicians get to dictate national policy.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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