Mary Beck, Trig Palin and God’s Agents on Earth

Today my Facebook has a post from the tireless blogger, Pam Spaulding of Pam’s House Blend. MSNBC host, Professor Melissa Harris-Perry is getting flamed for pointing out the obvious truth that citizens bear a collective responsibility for the welfare of our children. Even if they are not our own family, we don’t tell them to go play in traffic. Well, maybe the grouchy guy who listens to Rush Limbaugh does, but we don’t call him an expert.

I replied to Pam–
Rush Limbaugh is childless despite 4 marriages. Glenn Beck has a daughter, Mary, with a disability. Maybe he never took any state or federal benefits and had the means to afford all she needed, but if the wealth ever runs out over the course of her life and she needs medical or social security it will be the community that steps up. The same goes for Trig Palin. Are these activists so sure their own children will never need the safety net they are set on tearing apart?

In honor of the gummint entitlements that make possible benefits such as Meeting Street School, Hasbro Children’s Hospital and public education for all children regardless of their medical condition, I’m re-running this post from 2009…

Recently I got an email from Jim Wallis at Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization.

Glenn Beck has received a lot of attention for his inflammatory rhetoric lately. Recently, he shared a personal story about his daughter who has cerebral palsy, which gets to the heart of his fears about health-care reform:

They [the government] will say exactly what doctors said about my 21-year-old daughter: “She may not really have a quality of life. She may not walk or talk or feed herself. But then again miracles happen.” The “then again, miracles happen” part of that will be left out of the conversation. And I will not be able to see my daughter’s 21st birthday, where I can reflect with her how miracles do happen. Because really, as I was told at the beginning of her life: Well, what kind of quality of life is she going to really have? I don’t know, but that’s for God to decide, not the government. -The Glenn Beck Program, 8/6/2009

I hope everything is well with Glenn Beck’s daughter, Mary, and I can’t argue with faith. I can understand the Beck family praying for a miracle, and I hope it was granted. But in the world of meeting material needs, petitioning God directly doesn’t usually produce a check out of thin air. For that, Glenn Beck would petition his insurance company.

He has faith that the insurance company will be there for him. And that is fortunate. Because if he discovered in his time of need that the insurance he chose wasn’t adequate, he’d have a very tough time getting a new insurance policy for his family, with a newborn needing medical care. If his insurance company stalled on paying, who would he look to? The law, and the government.

So the question is not ‘who will you trust, God or the Government?’– the question is how much you trust your insurance company. Because when you or your family have a serious health problem you will be in no shape to go shopping on the free market.

God helps those who help themselves, they say, and maybe God blesses us when we help each other. I don’t know how long private insurance covers a child with cerebral palsy, but there are Government programs to help people with disabilities. It’s possible that Mary is benefiting from one of these programs. They exist because private insurance was not willing to meet the need, so a public option was created.

God loves us all, but insurance companies have to collect more money than they disburse, and they maximize profits by denying care. They don’t get into philosophical arguments about quality of life, they just refuse to pay the bills. Then you have to appeal to the Government. So it’s in our best interests to keep our Government strong and regulate our insurance providers, so that they have to uphold a standard of care.

Glenn Beck has faith in God, but who are God’s agents? Blue Cross, Tenet and Cigna? It’s not a debate about God vs Government– it’s how much you trust private insurance. If your trust is not blind, you’ll want the Government on your side.

UPDATE: The passage of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed ‘Obamacare’, provides protection for people with disabilities, like Mary Beck, who cannot now be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition. As wealthy as her family is, she most likely will need the support of a government program, such as Medicare D, at some point in her life. Health care reform is beginning to change the focus of private insurance from paying for procedures to maintaining wellness. Ordinary working Americans cannot meet all the needs of a child with a disability without government assistance. I’m skeptical that even the Becks, with their millions, are immune from the contingencies we all face.

Special-Needs Adults

So, how about this weather? There are so many complex factors in weather, and in climate, that you can’t predict a scorching July will follow cherry blossoms in March. That goes double for Rhode Island, where it can snow in May.

Friday, I walked to Kennedy Plaza to catch the #42 bus. They say you have to watch out when you’re downtown, and they’re right. At Burnside Park I was confronted by a Unitarian who gave me a pledge card. With my sore back I’m not up for running, so I just told her that I hope to make good on last year’s pledge by the end of this fiscal year. I’m streetwise like that.

I just watched HBO’s ‘Game Change’. In 2008 I saw Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech in real time, it’s fascinating to see it as drama. I feel a kinship with Sarah Palin. Really.

Like when the wonks are in a huddle and someone mentions that Sarah Palin speaks in tongues. That’s fact, she does. I know why. I’ve been there and done that. At Apponaug Pentecostal Church in the 70’s, everyone who was anyone spoke in tongues. Though actually I had learned tonguesspeak from the Catholic Charismatics– long story.

I know that Sarah Palin has a large and powerful base. In my prior job I worked with an office manager who looked at me innocently and said, “I really like Sarah Palin, don’t you?” I would not hurt this woman’s feelings for the world, she was the nicest person. I wondered what she was hearing that made her feel Sarah Palin would stick up for her. Sarah Palin is not stupid– in fact she is brilliant at connecting with the pain of some Americans who feel ignored and disparaged, and making them believe that she is on their side– without actually committing to take any material action on their behalf.

In the film, a woman holding a Down Syndrome child looks worshipfully at Palin, saying that finally someone speaks for her. This is a part of America that cannot be dismissed, and to make snap judgements or condescend is not only wrong, it’s stupid.

Parents and families of special-needs children are fortunate if, like the Palin family, they are wealthy. Most are not. Where it really matters is not at the political rally, but in the allocation of resources. Tax cuts for the rich at the expense of families who depend on such services as RIDE and SNAP are dry, depressing, uninspiring realities. Jesus said that when you give, don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing. The Republican Party seems to have applied this to taking– talking about the children while cutting aid to the families who care for them.

Special-needs children, gods willing, grow up. Their needs change, sometimes increase. Parents grow old, money runs out. We can take care of our own, if ‘we’ includes all of us. We can provide not only material care, but inclusion.

I once worked in a building that was considered rather tough. At one time the VNA would not go into it without an escort. More than one mother with a special-needs child lived there, including the aging mother of a woman I’ll call ‘Tonie’.

Tonie was sweet-natured, energetic, outgoing and childlike. She hugged everyone. Her mental handicap was not apparent unless you talked with her. Wariness did not seem to be part of her nature. She was slim, boyish and nice looking. Her mother protected her always, until she had a heart attack.

While her mother was in the hospital, Tonie had to spend a long weekend on her own. We all worried. Did she know how to cook without setting her apartment on fire? Would she know to stay away from some of the known predatory people, inside and outside her building?

Tonie had more strength, I think, than we gave her credit for. She did okay, and I see her from time to time. She was not the only vulnerable person in that building who seemed to be protected by an unspoken code of honor. There were some tiny elderly ladies and gentlemen who lived there as long as age allowed. There were people whose illness caused them to be unpleasant and provocative, who were understood as impaired and left alone.

This rambling post is just to mention something that is obvious but often overlooked. Margaret Thatcher supposedly said that there’s no such thing as society– only individuals. We do not, however, live entirely in a world of strife and competition. We want someone to speak for special-needs children. Less often does anyone speak for their needs when they become adults.

We can take care of our own– all Americans. We are a great and wealthy nation. Special-needs children, like all children, are a lifetime commitment and beyond. They grow up, parents age, families reach the limit of their resources. That’s where community, and government aided by good laws, share the responsibility.

We are now at a point where we will decide whether the life-saving resource of medical care will be a public good, or a private privilege.

The future of Mary Beck, Trig Palin, Bella Santorum and all the children of ordinary citizens will be profoundly affected by what we decide.

Infant Mortality–Babies Just Like Trig

When it’s a fouled-up health care ‘system’ the blame is dispersed. God takes them. Forty-one nations have better infant survival than the United States, for all the money we spend, for all our claims to have the best health care in the world.

Here’s a link to the ratings of 226 nations according to 2006 estimates by the CIA. Another set of stats comes from the United Nations by way of Wikipedia.

The worst is Angola, with over 185 deaths per 1,000, a statistic that hides terrible grief. Nearly 2 in 10 infants dying in their first year. Things are much better in the United States, our number is 6.43. But in a population of over 300 million that is a national shame. Canada, the UK, Italy, the Czech Republic, Cuba and Aruba do better. Singapore is the best, with infant mortality of 2.29 per 1,000.

I don’t have stats on infant health, but consider this. Death is the worst, most extreme outcome. For every baby that dies, how many are cheated out of the health and future they should, could have had if their mothers had pre-natal care, if every baby had first-rate pediatric care?

It’s not that there aren’t programs intended to deliver these services, but our fragmented, money-driven system impedes patient care. And then we have inexplicable decisions like Governor Carcieri’s attempt to cut 28 pregnant women off state insurance.

What our Governor means by ‘pro-life’, what Sarah Palin means, apparently doesn’t have anything to do with preventing suffering and death of young and old who could not get basic health care in the richest country in the world.

Unfit for Leadership

Since former Governor and former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin quit Alaska, we are seeing more of the woman who might have been our president. She confuses self-promotion with doing the work of God, just like any other cheap evangelist. She has no regard for the truth. She has no concern for handicapped children whose families didn’t have the gumption to get rich. She’ll spread lies to scare people away from constructing a health plan that will cover everyone, because the frenzy of hate she can whip up is her natural element.

“The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care,” the former Republican vice presidential candidate wrote.

“Such a system is downright evil,” Palin wrote on her page, which has nearly 700,000 supporters. She encouraged her supporters to be engaged in the debate.

There is no such system. There is no such system in consideration. The health care reform being debated is a complicated compromise because so many interests are afraid of being cut out. If we’re lucky, we’ll come out with something that covers more people–that seems the best we can hope for now. This mundane truth is less politically advantageous than an inflammatory lie, and Palin has opted to debate the Nazis, rather than the Americans. She only looks good in black and white.

The America we live in now is one where insurance companies deny care to the sick and the old, based on a subjective judgement of their level of profitability to the corporation. Boosted by our tax dollars, using our emergency rooms as a catastrophic insurance plan, insurance companies make billions from rationing out care.

There is not, and will never be, a health care system that does not have to allocate resources. Our current state of confusion encourages unnecessary tests and treatments to maximize profit, while denying basic preventive care to prevent illness and promote health. This is immoral and a national shame.

I never thought Sarah Palin wasn’t smart. She’ll be rich enough to build a compound on some island in Alaska, or more likely a warmer, more comfortable place. She can put away a good size trust fund for Trig, and he will have all the private doctors he needs. Meanwhile there are millions of American families who are supporting children with disabilities.

Remember Ladd School and the isolation of the kids in ‘special ed’? Remember the good old days when families were told to just put their baby away and try for another one? Change didn’t come from conservatives and the churches. It was not one-sided, but liberals and feminists, social workers and community organizers deserve a lot of credit for a more humane and accountable system for people in need.

The safety net of Medicaid is shredding. We need a national effort to insure everyone. Sarah Palin, who did not stick around as Governor to advocate for needy children in Alaska, is leading the attack against health care reform. Since the truth doesn’t serve her purpose, lies and scare tactics will do.

Meanwhile, families of disabled children are holding fundraisers and seeking grants to buy much-needed equipment, like wheelchairs and handicap showers. They see the bills come in, they have to worry about continued coverage for the daily necessities. They see costs that are far beyond their ability to cover on their own paycheck.

Pious words about ‘self sufficiency’ are not helpful. No one who isn’t close can understand the 24/7 needs of a sick child or a dying parent. Yes, it takes a village. It’s beyond what a family can do alone. In the ‘good old days’ people just died. God took them. Maybe that’s Palin’s health care proposal.

Listening to some politician on the radio ranting about ‘government health care’ I wondered why he chose to work in government and not some pure public service like the insurance industry. We don’t elect insurance. We don’t usually even choose it. We are lucky to get it through our jobs. Insurance exists to make money by rationing health care so that collectively we pay for more than we get. That’s profits.

But we should trust them. Because after someone dies we can sue. And we should be terribly afraid of our government, that we elect, that we can petition in the courts. We are still citizens, not consumers. But some people are sour on this democracy thing because their candidate didn’t win.

And Sarah Palin doesn’t trust the truth. She’d rather try to whip up panic and stampede her followers into running away from the government we elected and into the waiting arms of the corporations. She’ll make out just fine. If other families of Down syndrome children don’t do so well, they can always stop by the church on grocery night.

It is truly frightening that this woman who covered up her real life in the vetting process, who stirred up hate in the campaign, who ditched her supporters in Alaska, who is now telling outrageous lies–this woman could have been our president. If our country gives in to hate and ignorance, instead of rational debate and dedication to the welfare of our citizens, there will be no America left to save. We don’t have time for this.

UPDATE- Reckless speech has consequences. Police are investigating a death threat to Congressman Brad Miller who supports health care reform.