Opinion and Commentary

Killing the Patient to Cure the Disease

Unless you are Rip Van Winkle waking up from an extended nap, you are fully aware of the November elections pending.  The sound and fury generated by copious infusions of dark money into electoral politics ensure the demise of civil discourse between opposing candidates.  Battle lines are drawn and an exhausted polity awaits the outcome on which much depends.  Meanwhile, the vital signs are deteriorating for the body politic, threatening to put bipartisanship on life support.  

A long list of issues ignites the poisonous and partisan warfare; but the Affordable Care Act (ACA) probably deserves special mention.  Its approval and subsequent implementation by progressives inspired a campaign of mass resistance among conservative lawmakers nationwide, with the exclamation point on the rebellion provided by the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Sarah Kliff of The Washington Post writes, that since the GOP took control of the House in 2011, they have voted, at last count, 54 times to repeal, undo, or revamp the law, dead letters every one.  Their scorn for the federal legislation overflowed to the states, inspiring a campaign of opposition, with few exceptions, among conservative-controlled statehouses, the so-called “Red States.”  Following their Congressional allies lead, Red States undertook strategies of death by a thousand cuts of the law, resisting full implementation of its provisions, denying millions of the uninsured in their own states access to affordable healthcare.  They also played monarch at their constituents’ expense, imperiously turning away federal money for Medicaid already paid for by residents with their tax dollars, leaving an estimated 1.3 million Floridians unable to gain coverage.  Says Kliff, if Florida had expanded Medicaid, $66 billion of federal funds for healthcare would have flowed into the state over the course of a decade. 

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It Tain’t Pretty

In an earlier column, I wrote about a recent trip to North Georgia.  I lived there for a decade in a community that had a population of 96.  Having grown up in Jacksonville, mountains and rocks were a revelation.  I had not witnessed the turn of fall in a hardwood forest; or frozen ground covered in a light snow; or rabbit tracks left like the boot prints of a fairy tip toeing through the woods.  I was smitten from the start by the place and the people.  I hitched up a U-Haul, went as far north as two tanks of gas would carry me, which turned out to be Atlanta. Several years passed before I completed the journey northward to what had been my real destination all along.

Jacksonville, after all, belonged temperamentally to South Georgia, with its piney woods, scrub forests, pulp mills, and the silent presence of the fallen confederate standing watch in the town’s public square.  It was, for a sprawling city, neither backward nor forward-looking.  It seemed an in-between place, longing to be something other than what it was.  Then the corporate headquarters of several insurance companies arrived and a resurgence took off along the St. Johns River.  A building over five stories was a novelty back then.  I remember my dad taking me downtown to tour the pink marbled splendor of the Prudential Building, the first sky-scraping citadel of its kind to herald the city’s revival.  Still, I never imagined I would stay and the alchemy between determination and serendipity moved me inevitably along to the place that became my mountain home. 


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