We Are All Citizens Now
Photo Art by Carolyn Fischman
Jan. 31, 2017
What a difference a few months have made. I remember when I lost my first election in 1995 writing a letter to the voters who had supported me. I said then that the most important office in a democracy was that of Citizen, not councilor, not senator not president. With “alternative facts,” blatantly unethical appointments and rash executive orders, it’s even truer today. But how to keep the momentum from the millions (yes millions!) in the streets and even more on the Internet going in an effective direction? My suggestion is to keep your eye on the ball—Congress. I’m trying not to pay much attention to Trump’s talk and bluster but to his policies, which must be funded (or defunded) and passed by the Republican Congress. There are lots of online tools to make it easy to contact your representatives like Indivisible ABQ. But no sense in preaching to the choir. I’m concentrating on moderate Rs who might still have some common sense—Jeff Flake and John McCain in AZ, Susan Collins in Maine. You might even have some relatives or friends outside of New Mexico. Work with them! Yes, many Republicans will say no, or equivocate. But for every elected official, this is a profile in courage moment. Remind them of that.
And don’t forget that letters to the editor, op eds, phone calls and hand-written letters count. Mailbox full? Switchboard tied up? Be ingenious. One friend suggested post cards to Rep. Paul Ryan’s home (Paul Ryan 700 St. Lawrence Ave., Janesville, WI 53545); another suggested filling in required email forms with a zip code from the targeted state. I suggest tea party style town halls in all swing districts. Hey, we might even have to travel. This is what a movement looks like.
Ethics? What Ethics?
President Trump’s unwillingness to divest, to disclose, to remove himself completely from his hotels and businesses guarantees continued conflicts of interest and public distrust. His insistence that the laws don’t apply to him sounds like a central African dictator, who’s squirreling away the country’s money. Even worse are the conflicts that his top appointments brush off so lightly. So what if the new HHS Secretary profited off of pharmaceutical stocks he bought in advance of a vote on RX pricing? Too bad if OMB pick Mick Mulvaney didn’t pay taxes on his housekeeper. Not long ago that was enough to stop Tom Daschle and Zoie Baird, but not this group. Shameless behavior on display here https://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/tom-prices-confirmation-hearing-muddies-the-swamp as Republican senators wink and nod at nominees enduring the pesky press and public. Here’s another run-down of all the conflicts:https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/trumps-appointees-conflicts-of-interest-a-crib-sheet/512711/?utm_source=eb And is it coincidental that none of the Muslim majority countries where Trump has business dealings are covered by the travel ban?
Friends, if we loose our outrage about the basic principles of ethics and transparency—we’re collaborating. Common Cause, a group I am now connected with, is standing up at the national and state level. Support them. Closest to home, you can contact legislators for a strong ethics commission, disclosure of PAC and lobbyist activities and other reforms. To find out how, go to nm.commoncause.org and scroll down to Democracy Wire, at the very bottom. Common Cause New Mexico has a Face book page, too.
ABQ School Board Elections Tuesday Feb. 7
Lorenzo Garcia, Amy Legant are my picks for the North Valley district. I know, there’s only one seat—but longtime friend Lorenzo G. told me he wasn’t running and I told Amy Legant I’d support her. Darn it! Not much help on this one.
Solutions from the Grassroots
As gridlock—and worse—looms nationally, we need to remember that we have a lot to be proud of here in New Mexico. I am now hard at work on a book featuring some of the solutions that are working here at the grassroots level in health care, housing, local foods, education, and arts. I’ve always believed that real change comes from the bottom up and now I’m exploring that idea. And I’m finding a lot of local heroes here who didn’t wait for Washington to start solving problems. Let me know if you know one.
Repeal and Replace is Really, Really Bad for NM
The Affordable Care Act has cut our 2nd highest uninsured rate by half. Over 266,000 citizens who didn’t have insurance now can go to the doc thanks to the Medicaid expansion. 40,000 more people get it through the exchange, which subsidizes policies and makes sure that they include basic benefits with no lifetime or annual caps and no exclusions due to preexisting conditions. All that will be swept away if there is no replacement, along with a reduction in RX prices for seniors and free screenings for Medicare recipients. I’ve seen estimates that from 6,000- 19,000 people will lose jobs in clinics, hospitals, insurance companies that have benefited from the act.
Fortunately, the NM legislature had the foresight to enshrine some of the ACA insurance reforms in state law, something that I was a part of. For example, under state law, insurers cannot charge women more than men for the same policy, “20- somethings” can be included on parents policies, and 85% of insurance revenues must be spent on care, not profit or admin.
Republicans are already finding out how difficult it is to replace the ACA. https://wapo.st/2kccZkx?tid=ss_mail Certainly the ACA has not been perfect. Deductibles, premiums and co-pays have gone up. But just wait until you see the death spiral when the mandate is withdrawn. My prediction is that the replacement will be the same sorry health savings accounts or barebones policies that cost more with less coverage. Lifetime and annual limits will be restored. And oh, if we can buy cheaper policies across state lines, kiss our local insurance companies (like Presbyterian) goodbye. Lots of political risk here, but nothing compared to the real lives at stake.
Call members of the U.S. Senate and tell them not to confirm Tom Price as HHS Secretary. Meanwhile,
Keep the faith! With all its perils, we may be entering the most exciting time of our lives since the 1960s (for those of you who remember them).