Ryan? Really?

It’s a gift from the Right — Paul Ryan, the author of Kill Medicaid/Medicare/Social Security, as VP pick for Mitt Romney.

OK, first off, the Protestants aren’t going to be happy, especially those furthest to the right think neither Mormons nor Catholics are “real” Christians. There are some over there who don’t even think Methodists are real Christians.

Then there are the few moderates in the party who will bail out at the thought of a Tea Partier as VP.

And those on the far right likely are unhappy already because Mitt distanced himself from the Medicaid debacle.

We on the left are pretty pleased, of course, because the Ryan budget hasn’t been very popular and we can (and will) exploit what it would do to seniors, to people with disabilities and to people who happen to be both poor and sick.

And just as the Affordable Care Act is gaining some popularity among the millions of people it has helped already:

  • 2.5 million young adults who are on their parents’ insurance policies,
  • 5 million children with pre-existing conditions like asthma or a birth defect,
  • 14 million seniors who received help with prescription drug costs or other aspects of the new law,
  • 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions such as a history of heart disease or cancer,
  • women who no longer have to pay out-of-pocket for cancer screenings or contraception.

I’ve actually heard the word, “Obamacare” spoken with some affection, and these two are smiling, waving and promising to repeal the whole thing.

Then there’s the Ryan tax plan what gives even more money to the wealthiest while increasing taxes on the working class. This “deficit hawk” has a budget that would increase the deficit while robbing the poorest Americans of everything.

While Romney and Ryan have been trying to paint everyone who’s poor as lazy or evil, many of us know people and families who would be devastated by cuts — people like Rebecca Demmer, whose two sons both have autism and need state services. Cuts in Medicaid would affect this innocent family by taking housing and work support away from them.

Medicaid rates are so low already that many service providers refuse to work in the system, making it difficult to find care for people who depend on Medicaid.

But those people don’t matter to someone who idolizes Ayn Rand, an author with a survival-of-the-fittest philosophy. Rand’s philosophy says that people who can’t “contribute” will not survive. Tell that to Rebecca Demmer, who loves her sons and will argue that they contribute greatly to the lives of the people around them.

Some of my Republican friends are worried about this choice. They see how it looks to moderates and progressives, and they know most unaffiliated voters are pretty middle-of-the-road, and those are the voters who will decide this election.

Thanks, Mitt.



The immorality of ‘optional’ care

I read in the newspaper this morning that the NC Senate is considering cutting “optional” Medicaid services as the costs rise.

Sounds reasonable, right? That’s until you hear what’s optional. The place where my friend Stacie and her best friend, Ashley, live is optional.

That’s Stacie in the photo, showing off her beautiful smile. I met her and Ashely five or so years ago when they went to their prom. Although both young women are non-verbal, they have effective ways of communicating with each other and their caregivers. When Stacie thought she was running late for her hair appointment the day of the prom, she tugged on my sleeve, pointed to her watch and touched her hair. I promised her the hairdresser would wait for her.

Stacie and Ashley have lived together since they were small children; they’re in their mid-20s now, living at one of three residences at the Irene Wortham Center. Their days are filled with activities and caring people, and they are as close as any two sisters — there’s even a little rivalry between them.

But the NC Senate believes these residences and the services they render are “optional.” Extra. Non-essential. If the funding is cut off, Stacie and Ashley don’t have family who can take them in and care for them. They likely will land in separate nursing homes where there is little emotional or physical stimulation.

Liz Huesemann, the executive director of the Irene Wortham Center, doesn’t think she will be able to get enough money to continue caring for these two young women — and 22 other people who are helpless to decide their own fate.

“I’ll tell you what will happen,” Huesemann said. “They’ll wither away and die. They’ll just die.”

Also optional will be eye care and dental care for adults, and God only knows what else. The story in the newspaper didn’t go into much detail. Maybe that’s because the people in the NC Senate know people would be upset to know what’s about to happen to people with serious disabilities.

Or maybe they figure most people really don’t care what happens to less-than-perfect human beings. Historically, their needs have been ignored. They were warehoused in places like Wrentham State School in Massachusetts and Letchworth Village in New York, and they died very young.

Then in the 1960s and 1970s, advocates demanded humane treatment, and things improved. Warehouses became homes, with people grouped in smaller numbers, and even the most profoundly disabled people receiving stimulation and therapy.

We’re about to take a huge step back in time. Don’t think for a moment people with disabilities don’t understand when no value is placed on their lives. Stacie and Ashley know people care about them. They know someone will help them when they need it.

I can’t imagine placing them in a nursing home that doesn’t have the facilities or the staff to care for them properly.

It matters very much to me. If it matters to you, call your state senator in Raleigh and tell him or her you’re watching.

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