Dear Mr. PresidentPermalink +
Thu, Dec 31, 2009, 7:15 pm // Tip Johnson
Dear Mr. President,
Down here on Main Street, Wall Street seems far away. Is Pennsylvania Avenue even farther?
Welcome to the United States of America, land of opportunity. Here, unlike any other developed country in the world, we have the opportunity to get sick, lose everything and die. Here, also unlike any other developed nation, private, for-profit death panels with actuarial tables decide who is eligible for insurance and who will be denied care. However, affordable comprehensive health care insurance is available nearby. Those willing to get it can find it for $300 per year. Yes, that's right...per year, not month. More and more Americans are taking advantage of this affordable option. How? By moving to Mexico! (Go ahead, Google it. It's actually decent care.)
Our northern neighbors in Canada have a similar, slightly more expensive system so moving there is an option, too. Most health care in Canada is paid through taxes, but a few provinces charge premiums. If I lived 25 miles farther north, in White Rock, British Columbia, my premiums would be about $50 per month. Co-pays are extremely low or nil and there are no deductibles on essential health care, no exclusions for preexisting conditions and no lifetime limits. Have you tried shopping for a health insurance plan in the U.S. recently? Individual plans are simply not available. Nothing is affordable. How can these relatively less productive economies provide affordable health care for their citizens? Perhaps because they cannot afford the alternative. Uncompensated care adds billions a year to the cost of our system. Other incalculable costs mount as a result of deferred or denied care and the lack of incentives for prevention. How can the value of even one unnecessary death be reasonably defined in terms of shareholder dividends?
Dear Mr. President, we'd sure like decent health care without having to move! Living between the borders of Mexico and Canada should not constitute a threat to our health, safety and welfare. Congress has proved they will not put the vital interests of their constituencies ahead of campaign contributions from the medical/industrial complex. They are actually willing to let citizens die, destroying families and their estates, to keep a few bucks in their campaign coffers. They are willing to protect a health care system that costs two to twenty times as much as any other, and neglect one of the most basic needs of the populations they supposedly represent. Shame on them!
Among the tenets of our country's inception was objection to government that neglects provisions "most wholesome and necessary for the public good." Our Declaration of Independence also asserts the people have "unalienable rights" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the right "to alter or to abolish" government "destructive of these ends," and a duty "to throw off such Government" and "institute new government...most likely to effect their safety and happiness." Our founding fathers had experience with government that was useless, irrelevant and harmful to the public good. They did therefore "ordain and establish" a Constitution empowering "We the People" to, among other things, "promote the general Welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty." Wouldn't affordable health care greatly advance the public good and general welfare, promoting life, safety, happiness and the blessings of liberty?
Dear Mr. President, upon what principles do we authorize a trillion dollars in military and black budgets, wreaking death, destruction and havoc around the world, while ignoring the basic needs of the people here at home? How can we afford to bail out big banks and automakers, but let the sick sink unsung into oblivion, one by one? Good health care would achieve more of our most principled aims at much lower cost. Could Congress possibly ignore this wholesome approach to our general welfare? They just did!
Anticipating such Congressional neglect, Article V of our Constitution provides for amendment upon "the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States" when "ratified by the Legislatures of...or by Conventions in...three fourths of the several States." The legislatures of all states can place measures on the ballot. Many specifically provide for some form of citizen initiative and referendum. Except for Delaware, every state requires a popular vote to approve Constitutional Amendments.
Dear Mr. President, you are our Commander in Chief, our chief executive officer and a constitutional scholar! The dereliction of Congress on this issue must have amazed you. Or were you joshing all along? If not, I think you know what you could do on our behalf and I think you know We the People would happily do our part. Congress had their chance. Please help us have ours.
I propose a national referendum on health care and the plan Congress has fashioned. Let's find out if people are satisfied. Exert your authority to invite applications from the several states for a Constitutional Convention: Should government guarantee universal, single-payer health care with a not-for-profit public option? Period. I listened to your campaign speeches. I know you know the system could easily be twice as good at half the cost. But that's not where we are headed under the incompetent direction of Congress. Ask states to help the people judge whether Congress has done its job.
In states where legislatures fail to apply but which provide for an initiative process, invite and assist citizens to qualify their applications for the ballot. Provide a timetable and uniform model application with solid language forbidding additions or deletions in convention and stipulating ratification by popular vote in the states. If a majority of voters in 38 states ratify the amendment, you would be well on your way toward accomplishing your earlier stated goals - at a minuscule fraction of what has already been spent.
Dear Mr. President, in conversation with a local homeless man earlier this year, he scoffed at the notion that Americans might receive, as you suggested, the same health care coverage Congress enjoys. He opined it would be far more effective to start by giving Congress the same health care he has - none! How right he was! After 43 years of far too much of the type of volunteer community service and public interest advocacy you strongly encourage, I really need to fix my teeth and put a new roof on the house. If we really scrimp, my family might be able to afford one or the other (though probably not after the self-employment taxes in our "new" economy) - and we still need decent health insurance! Credit is still very tight. The economy is still uncertain. Could you please help me out? Health coverage that serves We the People instead of the medical/industrial complex would be a great start.
Please, let's just see if We the People vote this issue differently than Congress. Take this issue away from Fox News, out of Congress' dirty hands and the influence of industry lobbyists. Put it on the ballot. Ask the people. This would be very simple for you to promote, but extremely difficult for citizens in fifty different states to coordinate. Will you help us? Be our leader. Stand up for us and see us stand with you! Give us a chance. Use your savvy grassroots tactics to show you still put the people's interests first. That's why we elected you. Offer a clear political plan, consistent with your campaign promises, and give the people something to rally around. If We the People reject such an amendment, we have no one to blame but ourselves. You will have done your very best. Then those who want affordable health insurance can, adiós, move to Mexico - or, au revoir, to Canada, eh?
Thanks, Kind Regards and God Bless America,
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