People with Real Problems who President Bush Did Not Point to in the Gallery during the State of the Union

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state of the union 2007.jpg
I haven’t posted a follow up piece on the broader parts of the President’s State of the Union Address — beyond this foreign policy essay — and I haven’t posted on Senator Chuck Hagel’s impressive and courageous leadership on the Iraq War Resolution this week, as well as Senator Biden’s leadership — because I have just been seriously depressed and distracted by an encounter I had the night of the State of the Union speech.
We all have personal stories. We know people who are sick, who die, who need a helping hand. But in Washington, we deal with the macro-dimensions of policy and we rarely think about the individuals involved. That’s why I don’t think Barbara Boxer was out of line in any way at all by admitting that both she and Condi Rice were a step removed from the real costs and consequences of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the President does get to “point up at the gallery” in the Chamber of the House of Representatives on the night of the State of the Union address and point to heroes who did something significant and who can possibly inspire others. Hillary Clinton can pick names and questions from tens of thousands she received in her “Conversations with Americans” and “humanize” an interaction that is nonetheless symbolic and can’t really be more than a macro-level encounter with the millions of people who have to consider voting for her or someone else.
But on the night of the President’s State of the Union, I met a young man whose situation is probably like many Americans — too many — and whose story needs to be revealed and considered.
Like some the President noted Wednesday night, this young man really deserves to be pointed to in a gallery in the House of Representatives or Senate.
In fact, Speaker Pelosi or Senator Reid should invite this young man to sit in the Gallery during a Congressional Session — and they should speak to him, recognize the burdens he is carrying on behalf of his family and how the environment for working families in this country is hell for some. His story is tragic, and yet this kid is a hero in my mind for what he is doing — and someone, or many of us, should be trying to help him and others like him.
So, I’m going to point at the Gallery, my own gallery, for a moment — and I hope that Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid consider my proposal about this guy and his situation, or others like him.
Until they do offer to invite him to the House or Senate, I am going to keep his identity concealed as far as the blog goes, but if they do want to do something extraordinary for an impressive person then I will reveal who he is in some way that does not damage his current work situation.
I do want people to help him.
I attended Wednesday night a quite splashy State of the Union pre-party sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly. One interesting thing I noticed about the attendees this year as opposed to earlier years is that the Republicans were there in force. John Boehner and Roy Blunt hovered a long time in the spectacular reception foyer of the Thomas Jefferson Building. Some Dems were there — but last year, there were many more. An indication of change.
At 7:30 pm, Al Jazeera had arranged for me to be picked up by a town car and driven to their studio so that I could do an evening of political commentary, along with a Republican party strategist, on the State of the Union. But when I got outside, the Capitol had become like the Green Zone in Baghdad with a curfew.
Police were everywhere. There was absolutely no vehicle traffic around the entire Congressional complex, including the Capitol and all of the House and Senate office buildings. So, I had to walk from the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building to Louisiana and D Streets — pretty far for a guy who had thrown his back over the weekend.
By the time I got there, a military or police guy dressed in black with an M-16 was seriously hassling the driver of the car I was supposed to get into — and the fact that he was a 22 year old Afghan-American sent off a number of red flags that made the security folks think there was something was up. They searched him, made him open the trunk and searched the car as he waited for me — but the guy tenaciously waited until I got there and then drove me to the studio at 16th & K.
I do a lot of TV work, more lately, and most of the studios — CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and Al Jazeera — send town cars to drive their talking head talent to and from their offices or homes. I know many of the drivers, and most of them are middle-aged, know the city unbelievably well, and have an odd kind of confidence that comes from driving around people like James Woolsey, Mike Isikoff, Richard Perle and others and eavesdropping discreetly on their cell phone calls that they make in the car. These drivers know a lot — and are great sources of interesting gossip.
This kid was new, and it was obvious. This is also the first time that he had had an encounter with an M-16 carrying Capitol policeman who didn’t do anything inappropriate perhaps but who probably thought that a young, clean cut guy who has dark Middle Eastern/South Asian features parking a black town car near the Capitol on State of the Union night was exactly what he was trained to disrupt.
I talk to people — all sorts of folks. It’s how I learn things, particularly people who work on the periphery and sometimes right in the chambers of powerful political players. But I just wanted to calm this guy down and help him get me to the studio as I was already late.
I asked him questions — and as I asked more, our exchange got quickly beyond the bland, impersonal banter of most town car talk. I want to emphasize that this young man did not set out to reveal his personal story to me. I want his employers to know — in case they read this — that he was the epitome of a professional. I pushed him, tactfully, to answer my line of questions — some of which I sort of boldly put to him and which perhaps because of his youth and inexperience he answered honestly and without guile or shading.
This young man is a 22 year old American of Afghan descent, born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia. He is sharp-looking and personable, but innocent of politics and how the sharks and barracudas of Washington that he’s driving around really operate.
He has been driving for just two months and has been logging 100 to 120 hours a week. He starts driving at about 11 am, or earlier and works until 4 am in the morning, every day of the week.
There are only 168 hours in a week, and I validated by drivers at the town car service today that he is in fact working the number of hours he reported.
What he is doing is unsustainable, and as I pressed him on why he seemed to be engaged in this desperate-sounding work pace, his voice quivered and told me that he had to support his family because his father and mother had both become ill.
He was the kind of guy who just doesn’t talk much, but it was clear that he wasn’t going to refuse to answer my questions — and I pried, perhaps inappropriately.
His 43-year old father had male breast cancer which has now evolved into bone cancer. His father was some kind of techician or engineer, and his father had no health insurance. His mother also has some kind of throat ailment that he could not define for me very well, but she is also unable to work.
He has three younger sisters — and after his father fell ill, this driver had to withdraw from the ITT Technical Institute where he was two semesters away from getting an MIS degree (Management Information Systems) in business technology. The college tried to work with him given the tragic nature of what has happened to his father and organize a morning set of course that he could work through at 8 am, but he could not do it because he was getting just no sleep.
Wow. This is the nicest young man you could imagine — born in this county in an immigrant family that has worked hard to get ahead — and like any family, or perhaps many families, something unexpected has torpedoes the family’s ability to stay afloat. I felt that I could sense how close his family was because it was clear to me that this person was not yet street-smart, had been sheltered by close parents and family and now was just trying to figure out things in a world that was moving very fast, and in which he felt like he was losing his grip.
Knowing that the President was going to address health care issues that very night, I asked if his dad had gone right away to get treated when he knew he was ill with the first round of health care. He responded that his dad avoided going because he didn’t have health care but that also tried at various times to go anyway — and that the doctors didn’t want to see him or treat him because he had no coverage.
He had no coverage. The doctors did not want to treat him.
The breast cancer worsened and I think (as I don’t know health patterns of this sort well) metastasized into bone cancer.
The driver’s father is now receiving some kind of chemotherapy, but to me — the situation sounds bleak.
As he drove me down K Street, he said that he had driven a couple of people who knew about these health realities and asked them what he might do that he wasn’t doing, and as he told me that a couple had said that the chances for his father were dim, and that his dad “probably wouldn’t make it,” tears welled up in this kid’s eyes.
And then I had to go hear the President talk about health care and that he was going to create a new category of deductions for the poor to deduct some health insurance costs from their taxes:

And so tonight, I propose two new initiatives to help more Americans afford their own insurance. First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents.
Families with health insurance will pay no income on payroll tax — or payroll taxes on $15,000 of their income. Single Americans with health insurance will pay no income or payroll taxes on $7,500 of their income. With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills.
At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job. For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings — $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year. And for the millions of other Americans who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan within their reach. Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans. (Applause.)
My second proposal is to help the states that are coming up with innovative ways to cover the uninsured. States that make basic private health insurance available to all their citizens should receive federal funds to help them provide this coverage to the poor and the sick. I have asked the Secretary of Health and Human Services to work with Congress to take existing federal funds and use them to create “Affordable Choices” grants. These grants would give our nation’s governors more money and more flexibility to get private health insurance to those most in need.

I’m not going to take a pot shot at the President’s plan and say that it’s just not fixing the problems of the guy I met Wednesday night. The President or anyone working at the highest level of political discourse in health care can’t get lost in the weeds of individual problems.
But i was hearing and looking at a weed that just needs some kind of attention.
And when I heard the President point into the Gallery — as all Presidents do — to salute a guy who risked his life for someone in the New York subway, or made a lot of money as an entrepreneur working in child education products, or threw himself into harm’s way in a gun fight to protect someone and kept fighting despite some serious wounds — I think that this young town car driver I met is just as much a hero in trying to take on something at 22 years of age — no degree — and work an insane number of hours that very few of us watching the President or sitting in the Congressional Chamber or enjoying our crab dip and pork fiesta at the State of the Union/Atlantic Monthly pre-party gala could handle.
This kid needs help or he’s going to collapse. And there are no doubt many others out there like him who need help too. We have to get health care realities changed in this country — and what the President suggests just does not do it. But I’ll leave that policy debate for another day.
This kid needs a break from someone with resources. He needs to finish his last two semesters at ITT and to do that he either needs an offset from a job that is more rational that helps him pay the costs for his family and allow the school to again put together the arrangement so that he can both manage work and his courses.
He is not well-trained, and he doesn’t have much experience — but he really does need to be given a chance by someone. Interview him if you are in the area and you have something a sharp, young guy without a degree but who seems hard-working, dependable and trainable might be able to do.
Another way to help him for those well-heeled types who are constantly in town cars in Washington, DC is to request his car which is encouraged. I will convey his “driver number” and the name of the car to credible people who contact me via email if they wish to help him. The drivers of these cars receive about 30% of the income and the limo service from which they rent the cars for their shifts take about 70%. Just something to know about.
My email address is steve@thewashingtonnote.com.
Another way to help this kid is to contribute to him. I don’t know any slick ways to do that. But people can send him checks if they like — and I would be happy to provide contact information so that can be done. This would not be a deductible charity. It’s just helping someone out with some funds to offset his time so that he can finish his school.
There is no way that this young man can make his situation work the way he is going.
Folks can send money to “The Washington Note/Qaiss Fund” if you like at:

The Washington Note
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20009

I will then just transfer these funds to him. And I guess paypal can work as well — but I would need donors to specify in their paypal request that the donation was intended for this young man and his family. Just label it “Qaiss”.
I rarely do this. It feels awkward now. I’m going to post this in a couple of places including my own blog, Huffington Post, and TPM Cafe.
And as I said, I know this is long, rambling, and a “pointing at the Gallery” exercise. But this guy — and others — deserve to be pointed to and supported. I really was inspired by this young man’s commitment to his family and his selflessness.
What I know though is that he just can’t survive his situation he’s in, and he and his family will be in even worse dire circumstances than they are now when he collapses.
And at the root of this is a family who has and had no health care. Just like millions of others, and increasingly more each year.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

38 comments on “People with Real Problems who President Bush Did Not Point to in the Gallery during the State of the Union

  1. pauline says:

    poa wrote:
    “Congressman Kucinich believes health care should be about patients not profits.
    Congressman Kucinich will continue to work on this legislation to ensure everyone can access health coverage, that medical care is of a universally high quality, and patients no longer face financial barriers to getting the care they need.”
    Maybe Kucinich is just too close to a true workable healthcare solution to have Congress, the AMA, Big Pharma and corporate media as advocates.
    My aunt is an administrator in longterm healthcare and she often talks of the many doctors who are openly bitter about serving their Medicaid patients. Many physicians, she says, have stopped dealing with Medicaid patients altogether. (They can’t make that $250 for a twenty minute office visit any more and won’t settle for a slow-paying fed government’s half of their customary fees.)
    It’s the doctor’s practice first and the patients needs coming in a distant second.
    In another Kucinich sighting, I see where Cindy Sheehan introduced him at a speech out here recently —
    “Kucinich offers plan to end war”
    http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/search/ci_5109409

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  2. CLD says:

    Good on you, Steve — at least you recognized a problem and are trying to take action to rectify it. Each of us should strive to do that at least once. It does make a difference.
    It’s a hell of a lot better than sitting back and doing nothing.
    There’s also the added benefit of your close ties to government officials and the like who actually can do something about this for the nation. The publicity this blog and the other blogs you’ve posted this on will hopefully help in sparking someone up there to get off their ass and construct something that will work.

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  3. sona says:

    POA – Iagree with you that a lack of systemic infrastructure to cope with the disempowerment that poverty generates is a failure of an admittedly affluent democracy.
    Then again I salute Carroll for being the good samaritan that such an unbalanced social order needs.
    And Steve, with all your adulation for Sen Clinton, why don’t you pose the real questions of what should be and how to recapture the vision that Tom Paine set out all those years ago.
    US of A is still working towards its declared Constitution and it is an ongoing struggle. Perhaps that should be its primary preoccupation rather than global domination of resources. This focus may help to avoid the repeition of the calamitous blunder of GW Bush on the rest of the world.
    Was just a thought.

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  4. Steve Clemons says:

    Dear Jim — thanks for your question. Before I wrote this post, I contacted the young man who drove me and received his permission to post this. My hope is that the money that has come in — which may be moderately substantial (I hope) — can be used to help modify his driving obligations/hours — so that he can take advantage of the preferential arrangement that ITT offered him. I think that the key thing here is to get him through his degree for which he needs to complete two semesters. i think that this is a good goal and worthy to direct the funding that has come in towards.
    all the best,
    steve

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  5. MP says:

    Tax deductions don’t help people too poor to have tax to deduct.
    Medical accounts don’t help people too poor to have money to put into them.
    Single payer is the way…Medicare for all.

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  6. steambomb says:

    You know Steve…. I know you dont want to take a pot shot at the president. I accept that you are a political creature and in order to run in the circles you run in you have to be nice. However I think it would behoove you and a lot of other people if not all of us to point out that what the president is suggesting for tax deductions on health care is a diversionary tactic to put off the inevitible. This move if passed would be tantamount to a huge tax increase to middle americans who are working at good jobs and would encourage employers to offer less health benefits while the working poor who cannot afford health insurance anyway go on being uncovered. Not to mention the fact that since a little bandaid has been applied it might delay an overall solution that actually works. The time has come an gone for people like you that run in the circles that you do to stop accepting smoke and mirrors as solutions.

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  7. Jim says:

    Steve- I asked this earlier but the comment didn’t post: Have you talked to this young man about your fundraiser? Offering someone money, however well intentioned, however much needed, is a dicey proposition

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  8. Pissed Off American says:

    http://kucinich.house.gov/SpotlightIssues/spotlight2.htm
    Medicare for All
    Over 46 million Americans do not have any health insurance. Tens of millions more have inadequate or incomplete coverage. As the richest country in the world, Congressman Kucinich believes this is simply unacceptable.
    Four out of five of the uninsured are in working families. Forty-six percent of all bankruptcies are tied to medical bills piling up due to an illness in the family. Three-quarters of those bankrupted by illness were insured when they first got sick.
    Now, more than ever, it is clear that our current health care system does not work.
    It is not because we do not pay enough. Rather, we’re not getting what we’re paying for. American taxpayers alone pay almost twice as much per capita in health care costs as taxpayers in countries that provide universal health care. In short, we are already paying for a universal standard of care, we are just not getting it.
    That is why Congressman Kucinich has co-authored legislation, with Congressman John Conyers, HR 676, Medicare for All, to provide full health care coverage for every American. It would expand Medicare’s benefits and grant Medicare’s coverage to everyone in our country. This legislation would cover all medically necessary procedures, with no premiums, no co-payments and no deductibles.
    Economists have estimated that a Medicare for All system could be paid for simply by reallocating money that is currently in the system. It would eliminate waste and capture dollars from current inefficiencies. In short, patients would get better care and pay less for it.
    Congressman Kucinich believes health care should be about patients not profits.
    Congressman Kucinich will continue to work on this legislation to ensure everyone can access health coverage, that medical care is of a universally high quality, and patients no longer face financial barriers to getting the care they need.

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  9. Pissed Off American says:

    http://kucinich.house.gov/SpotlightIssues/spotlight2.htm
    Medicare for All
    Over 46 million Americans do not have any health insurance. Tens of millions more have inadequate or incomplete coverage. As the richest country in the world, Congressman Kucinich believes this is simply unacceptable.
    Four out of five of the uninsured are in working families. Forty-six percent of all bankruptcies are tied to medical bills piling up due to an illness in the family. Three-quarters of those bankrupted by illness were insured when they first got sick.
    Now, more than ever, it is clear that our current health care system does not work.
    It is not because we do not pay enough. Rather, we’re not getting what we’re paying for. American taxpayers alone pay almost twice as much per capita in health care costs as taxpayers in countries that provide universal health care. In short, we are already paying for a universal standard of care, we are just not getting it.
    That is why Congressman Kucinich has co-authored legislation, with Congressman John Conyers, HR 676, Medicare for All, to provide full health care coverage for every American. It would expand Medicare’s benefits and grant Medicare’s coverage to everyone in our country. This legislation would cover all medically necessary procedures, with no premiums, no co-payments and no deductibles.
    Economists have estimated that a Medicare for All system could be paid for simply by reallocating money that is currently in the system. It would eliminate waste and capture dollars from current inefficiencies. In short, patients would get better care and pay less for it.
    Congressman Kucinich believes health care should be about patients not profits.
    Congressman Kucinich will continue to work on this legislation to ensure everyone can access health coverage, that medical care is of a universally high quality, and patients no longer face financial barriers to getting the care they need.
    View a summary of HR 676
    http://kucinich.house.gov/UploadedFiles/HR676.pdf
    View the text of the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act
    http://kucinich.house.gov/UploadedFiles/676.pdf
    View an updated list of cosponsors for HR 676
    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:HR00676:@@@P

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  10. Pissed Off American says:

    On the Clinton thread, Steve is taken to task for the picture of Hillary. Really, as far as pictures go, the one at the head of THIS thread is pretty revolting. Theres Pelosi, standing in ovation with that sick torturing monster Cheney, applauding the liar and mass murderer, Bush. If Pelosi was sincere in her applause, shes as bad as they are. If she was insincere, than she is just another posturing opportunist, that will say or do anything to achieve her goals. Its gotta be one or the other. Niether option bodes well for the quality of her leadership.

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  11. Pissed Off American says:

    Yeah right Morrow. Whatever you say. Lets spend our tax dollars on killing Iraqis, subsidizing Israel, and developing tactical nukes. Screw them indigent cancer patients.

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  12. Robert Morrow says:

    I think that it is a super idea to help this young man – with PRIVATE resources.
    I’ve got an idea, which I am sure my hero Ron Paul will agree with, let’s get the government COMPLETELY out of the health care business. If folks want any health insurance they should buy it either individually or in a group plan if they can band together.
    I know lots of folks, mostly younger, who choose NOT to buy health insurance. They can afford it, they just don’t want to make the sacrifice and put a crimp into their lifestyle so they run around un-insured, tempting fate.
    As for this young American and his family, perhaps set up a web page, put some photos of his family there, and make an appeal for folks to send in donations. This is the old school community chest way of taking care of people’s needs. But the government should not be charity which it has turned into.
    There is absolutely no “cure” to the health care crisis – which is really a non-crisis – because whether you live in a socialist country or a free market country, cancer and other serious ailments will always be financially and emotionally debilitating to a family.

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  13. Frank says:

    What is the purpose of our state department if we don’t talk to any of our adversaries. Diplomacy, where forth art thou? We could save billions by abolishing that now totally bankrupt organization. What good is it? There is not a statesman in the bunch…Hear of any resignations from state, defense, and intelligence beause of that empty cowboy hat’s decisions? As a result we have a broken army, a broken state department, and a broken intelligence agency. More, we have a broken congress if it does not now assert its responsibilites.
    That empty cowboy hat in the white house gives all indications that he is beyond cerebral redemption. Cheney’s preposterous statements to Blitzer characterizing Iraq as a success proves insanity. Pretty words like denial must be rejected in explaining their reasonings, and instead, the word “insanity” should be made operative in explaning this administration’s past ME foreign policy decisions..
    I’am reminded of the sign sticking out in the watching crowd as the first inaugrual parade of GW Bush passed by…It read “God help us” …How prescient
    What’s happening now in the ME reminds me of the tune “We’ll meet again” sung by Vera Lynn, as mushroom clouds billow out in the closing scenes of the movie “Dr Strangelove”.It has become a leitmotif getting louder and louder as our ME “policy” unfolds.

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  14. Carroll says:

    We should help this fellow..it sounds like he has no community or extended family network like we in small towns have to help out people in his situtation. Imagine yourself not only alone, but with his burden in the dog eat dog society we have now…it’s a scary thing. I have never used PayPal but did the demo on their site and I think you can insert what it is for under the “note” or “subject” portion. If enough of us give just a little bit it might change this young man’s life…you never know.
    And YES…health care must change. I learned a lot about that world when I took the cancer trip 10 years ago when a pea sized bump on my forearm turned out to be a very rare and deadly form of cancer. There is an inside saying among those who face the big C or any other type of deadly condition that goes for people in this fellow’s situtation as well…it’s trip where you meet “two types of people, those who just ask you questions and others who show you the way.” According to my doctors I lived to tell the tale only because I had it checked out the minute I noticed it and had access to the best medical care at Duke. I got out light, with only radiation and some surgery, but some of the heartbreaking patients I met along the way wern’t as fortunate. Some of them had delayed seeing a doctor because they didn’t have insurance and by the time they couldn’t ignore it any longer it was mostly too late. And even for people who have good insurance the cost is staggering. There isn’t a month that goes by in my town and probably every town that fund raisers arent’ going on to help someone with their medical bills so their treatment can continue or they can get a transplant or to help them with the expenses of getting to medical care facilities.
    It’s disgusting, uncivilized and as primitive as cannibal tribes to say if you don’t have money you die. And that is basically what America’s capitalist medical and insurance system says.
    I don’t know the best way to fix this crisis and at the same time insure that medical care is first rate for everyone… approaching it strictly from the “tax” break angles won’t do the job…how the hell would some someone working in a low wage job be able to afford insurance even with ‘tax” breaks?…I am inclined to lean toward private “non profit” insurance that cuts out stock holders and trillion dollar CEO’s. I would go more for the non profit type Blue Cross was at one time, with a system like medicare for lower income.

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  15. ET says:

    Rove Subpoenaed
    White House anxiety is mounting over the prospect that top officials—including deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and counselor Dan Bartlett-may be forced to provide potentially awkward testimony in the perjury and obstruction trial of Lewis (Scooter) Libby.
    Both Rove and Bartlett have already received trial subpoenas from Libby’s defense lawyers.
    http://www.tpmcafe.com/blog/ticia/2007/jan/27/rove_subpoenaed

    Reply

  16. Jim says:

    There was a story about the minimum wage in the Washington Post a while back. Almost every minimum wage employee featured had some kind of medical crisis in their lives, either their own or a family member’s.
    It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of the American national psyche: We’ll send thousands to help individual cases like this, and just as much to politicians who promise to block tax increases of a few dollars per capita per year that would alleviate those individual cases.

    Reply

  17. Pissed Off American says:

    “Cut Steve some slack. Trying to help just one family does not change things for the rest of the 47 million without health insurance, true. But so what?”
    Posted by fiat lux
    “So what”?? I’ll tell you so what. Helping one family’s hardship, while continuing to pimp for the self same political elitists and bastards that contributed to this family’s hardship hardly constitutes an act of realistic altruism and compassion. This issue wasn’t born yesterday in the driver’s seat of a Washington limo. If Steve was awakened by the plight of this young man, thats all well and good. And attempting to help this young man is laudable as well. But, tomorrow, will Steve be decrying the billions we just promised Israel in foreign aid, while 47 million Americans go without health insurance? Will Steve be asking just what the hell Lieberman and McCain, Hillary and Obama are doing touring Israel while this limo driver drowns in a morass of medical bills and hopelessness? Will he be asking the mass of representatives that are introducing amendment after amendment to Congress regarding Israeli affairs why in God’s name they are spending their time and our dollar on legislating Israel’s best interests while the victims of Katrina are still homeless and displaced? While people such as this limo driver, an American, are suffering?
    I don’t buy it. Hundreds of billions spent in Iraq, and 47 million Americans without health insurance. Yet do you see Kucinich being pimped here? Have you seen Conyers spotlighted? No. Instead we have been handed a steady diet of the same old frauds, all beholding to lobbies and global money machines. Hagel, who has done NOTHING up to this point to rein in Bush. Hillary, who stood in the background, writing her script for 08, doing absolutely NOTHING to oppose Bush as 600,000 Iraqis, and 3000 of our children died. One “business as usual” posturing fraud after another, as those that really WERE launching an opposition were ignored or minimized.
    So now Steve is going to rescue this poor kid, while shoving the Hillarys and the Hagels down our throats?
    Well, if he really wants to help the millions of Americans in the same situation as this limo driver, he will get off the fence and stop dishing out the same old Washington horseshitters that landed us here in the first place.

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  18. DonS says:

    Proudon, I used to live in DC and enjoyed frollicking around the Capitol grounds, you know, just because they were lovely. The last few visits, I have felt paranoid even driving around the area, and I lived only a couple of blocks from the Capitol. These boys have changed the rules. It is a viurtual police state in those areas. But to your point, I don’t find it appropriate either.

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  19. Proudhon says:

    Steve – The Capitol Police didn’t do anything inappropriate? Pulling an M-16 on an limo driver for no reason but his appearance is now OK? What have we come to?

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  20. Marcia says:

    The last time I was in Houston there were people living in holes dug under all the overpasses on the numerous freeways, legless and armless Vietnam vets begging on the street and this just a few blocks away from George H.W. Bush’s home who is now weeping about how badly his little boy is being treated by the big bad media.
    When there is no real desire for justice, there is no justice.

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  21. Winnipeger says:

    i applaud you efforts, steve!
    sure, this doesn’t address the underlying, systemic problems which give rise to this sort of suffering, which MILLIONS are facing in this country alone, but we should also never let futility be an excuse for not doing our utmost to help individuals in need.
    in hebrew, steve’s act is referred to as “chesed,” an “act of loving kindness.” it is also referred too as a “mitzvah,” or a “praiseworthy deed.”
    Rambam, Rabbi Moses Maimonides used an analogy when teaching about the way in which we should live: the world is a scale perfectly balanced between righteousness and evil. every little action on our part can tip the scale one way or the other, and thus, we have the power to save or destroy the world.
    in writing this post and making an effort to transform the life of this single, young man, steve is actually “tipping the scales” favorably and saving the world.
    there is another talmudic saying that goes, “if you save even one person, it is as if you have saved the entire world.”
    thanks again, steve, for your abundance of compassion and empathy.
    i’ll be sending a check on monday.

    Reply

  22. fiat lux says:

    Cut Steve some slack. Trying to help just one family does not change things for the rest of the 47 million without health insurance, true. But so what?
    Pissing on someone’s sincere attempt to make even a small corner of the world a better place is just mean.

    Reply

  23. Linda says:

    Again, no disagreement with all of the above, but I will add only that I spent my career both working with the poor in the most impoverished communities, going into their homes and seeing every day people as intelligent, hard-working, and wonderful, as some of a few of those I met in administration, research, government, and poicy work who really had no idea or concept of how much unnecessary suffering exists in this richest country of the world.
    I do believe that the pendulum has to swing back toward more New Deal and liberal Democratic values. FDR, in his State of the Union Address in 1944, knew that we would win World War II, looked ahead, and proposed an Economic Bill of Rights. I include that part of his address because, as benchmarks, we haven’t done very well in any of them.
    FDR’s “Economic Bill of Rights”
    It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
    This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
    As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
    We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
    In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
    Among these are:
    The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
    The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
    The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
    The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
    The right of every family to a decent home;
    The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
    The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
    The right to a good education.
    All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
    America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.
    End of quote – It should be the mission statement for all candidates and our country. Sadly, I doubt it will be.

    Reply

  24. Rose says:

    Steve
    thanks for trying to help at least one person while the rest of us try to make the fuck-ups in Washington pay attention.

    Reply

  25. Pissed Off American says:

    Sorry Steve, perhaps I was a bit quick with my criticism. But the story you relate has been occurring, is occuring, and will occur to MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of Americans, EVERY FRIGGIN DAY. I have NEVER used my health insurance, and being in my fifties, it ain’t cheap. But these bastards, DESPITE the fact I have never used the policy, (a PPO), raise my rates every year. And meanwhile we watch these fucking elitist robber barons in Washington and Congress get all the perks of Government employment, raise their own wages yearly, get free fuckin’ health insurance, ON MY FUCKING TAX DOLLAR, and we are supposed to believe that they give a shit about our problems?
    Sorry Steve, I’m not buying it. The coffee klatch you hang with hasn’t got a Goddamned CLUE what it means to live in the real world. And one brief encounter with one unfortunate victim of the indifference the government elitists have towards the average American sure as hell ain’t going to wake them up.
    Good God man. Just look at New Orleans. THATS how much we matter to these bastards in Washington.

    Reply

  26. Steve Clemons says:

    Thans POA — appreciate the note,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  27. DonS says:

    We could fix health care if the Congress cared to (single payer plan); if they got outraged enough at the incredible stain on America as a decent country that the current “system” is . We could have fixed it any old time recently with the f**king billions and billions thrown down Bush’s war-of-choice rathole. Those who have the power to fix it don’t care. Maybe the rest can claim ignorance, but not those in power.

    Reply

  28. Pissed Off American says:

    Actually, this posting kind of rubs me wrong, Steve. What the hell do you think happens to the 47 million Americans that don’t have health insurance? Did you have to meet this young man to figure out that people with no health insurance get sick too?
    Or gee, are you riding this young man’s story to give this opportunistic fraud, Hillary, a boost up?

    Reply

  29. Pissed Off American says:

    Welcome to the real world Steve. Its a shame you and the elitists you so fawn over don’t visit us more often.

    Reply

  30. Frank says:

    What’s the problem about not accepting my comment of fact, that Israel has universal health care but we don’t, yet we give billions of tax dollars each year to Israel?

    Reply

  31. DonS says:

    I want to correct something I said above, because the sad fact and accompanying outrage needs no embellishment: in the mid 70’s, some counties in Virginia had up to 40% of homes without indoor plumbing or a source of potable water. One I am thinking of was within a 2 hour drive of DC.

    Reply

  32. DonS says:

    Wonderful instinct, Steve. And it does break the heart to encounter the heartless realities our “policies” generate while the well-heeled worthies skim off the cream, a lot of the milk, and ignore the results for millions.
    I stopped being a government lawyer/policy type over 30 years ago when I couldn’t help notice the disconnect between my day to day work and real people; maybe because I was not way up on the GS scale. But I don’t think so. Institutions may just breed institutional thinking, which sees only statistics. We had acronyms for the underclass who were to be benefitted by the “special” programs that Congress mandated as add ons . . . perhaps to assuage their conscience, perhaps because of response to pressure groups, perhaps to really try to help.
    Anyway, I got out of town and eventually ran a non profit corporation leveraging government programs to bring potable water and sanitary services to “rural” dewllers in Virginia (back then 40% of Virginia housholds were without indoor plumbing — got that). My first real encounter with unfortunates who most often go unnoticed. After several other jobs where I could use my government saavy to supposedly address problems of the poor (where I ran into government malfunction and malfeasance — albeit on a smaller scale) I wound up as a substance abuse and mental health counselor in community mental health setting. For those who don’t know, that designation is the treatment of last resort in the mental health community, as well as the court system. (We provided very good care btw).
    So for 25 years now I have dealt with folks in the lowest socio-economic strata who have “problems”. Many of my client’s problems are exacerbated to greater or lesser degree by contact or lack of contact with the traditional (medical) health care system.
    Many of my folks have given up, or can’t even imagine digging themselves out of the hole that they find themselves in because the system provides neither the help nor the hope that they can gain control of their lives. . . all the politicians assurances to the contrary.
    So,yes Steve, I applaude your heart and your instincts. Policy discussion is for another time. But, briefly, the system is broke. Like many of the other ills in this country, the cuase is greed and callousness. Health care is a huge first place to start recovering our humanity in a financially responsible way.

    Reply

  33. liz says:

    I am a single person, disabled all my life, misdiagnosed and now in a world of trouble. Steve , it is wonderful to help this particular man but helping everyone by helping getting the policy straight is more help. Insurance is not about helping people pay bills. Insurance limits care and tells you what you can and cannot have. All for a low price too…. Insurance companies are gatekeepers and they have no conscious. Americans do better when fair market value is applied.
    Doctors used to take a cow, a loaf of bread, whatever the patient could pay or give him. I have never heard of a poor doctor even in the depression and there was no such thing as insurance. AND people paid their medical bills. Of course the CEO of the hospital didn’t make 400 times that of what the nurses and housekeepers make either.
    Helping the young man is admirable….. helping EVERY American proves much more difficult.

    Reply

  34. Con George-Kotzabasis says:

    Clemons has a weird definition of “courageous leadership” , if he considers someone like Chuck Hagel who raises his hands and surrenders before the difficulties of war, is a courageous leader.

    Reply

  35. selise says:

    “But in Washington, we deal with the macro-dimensions of policy and we rarely think about the individuals involved.”
    i’ve come to suspect that too many NEVER think about the individuals involved. i hope i’m wrong. thank you steve, for thinking… and for caring.

    Reply

  36. Marcia says:

    There are also those families composed of women alone with children, many in low paying jobs with no way to obtain health care.
    There are so many falling into poverty because of health problems brought about by an insane economy designed to provide for those providing for themselves at the expense of others.
    They beg for our votes while picking our pockets.

    Reply

  37. DeanOR says:

    It’s worth pointing out that Bush’s income tax deduction does little or nothing for people with low income who do not pay a lot in income tax anyway. It certainly does not enable the person to buy health insurance. What that means is that the person does not get the good primary care that can help prevent very costly illnesses in the long run. That in turn drives costs up for everyone.

    Reply

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