The Bannon-Trump Administration and Congress is making dangerous choices against vulnerable people with few defenses: the poor, the sick, the elderly, minorities, women and immigrants.
The issues range from people’s basic human rights to the potential impact of the American government’s refusal to mitigate manmade climate change.
In 2011, The American Journal of Public Health attributed 874,000 deaths in the year 2000 to the effects of poverty:
“…approximately 245,000 deaths in the United States were attributable to low levels of education, 176,000 to racial segregation, 162,000 to low social support, 133,000 to individual level poverty, 119,000 to income inequality, and 39,900 to area-level poverty,”
Since this was before the Affordable Care Act, we can predict the mortality if “they” are successful in chopping down the ACA, especially its Medicaid coverage. In 2011, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation counted 75,000,000 Medicaid recipients. If this health coverage was reduced according to the Trump and Republican plan, the 874,000 deaths would surge into a massacre of our fellow Americans.
The government’s lack of concern would represent a manifest violation of the United States Constitution’s dual obligation “to promote the general welfare” and to collect taxes to do so.
In 1964 I interviewed a mother of five for Chicago American before the food stamp program was expanded:
“I can tell ya what ya cuts down on first when the money stops comin’ in.
“The biggest items are food and clothes. Ya can’t get around them.
“I’ve heard that one green onion is worth a whole plate of anything else. So we cuts up an onion and puts it over rice or potatoes. Or you can cut out the vegetable if you can get canned fruit, cuz they counts the same. Mainly, we fills 'em up on potatoes and corn or spaghetti or corn bread. And the rich people even have a salad and vegetable at the same meal and that ain’t necessary for nobody.”
In subsequent years food stamps (now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) have significantly improved the lives of the poor and the very poor. In 1981 and 1982, however, the Reagan Administration made major cutbacks and many suffered, especially the last week of each month before they received a new allotment. Here are two quotes from a Chicago Tribune interview I did at the time:
Michael: “I can tell you how bad it gets. I been down to where the only thing I had to eat was an ice cube.”
Wanda: “You can cut down on food, specially the last week of the month. You go in a lot of houses an you don’t find any food whatsoever in the house. I know a man eats popcorn the last week of the month.”
SNAP is a program that Congressional leaders want to cut, along with safety net and health-protecting programs. They are determined to disassemble the precious laws and programs that have made ours a more caring and human rights-based nation.
Who in the near future will be the 874,900-plus, who will die?
• low-income people who need healthcare,
• elderly persons on Social Security,
• all who desperately need regulations to protect the water they drink and the air they breathe,
• women who cannot get birth control, health care or medical exams from a nearby Planned Parenthood office;
• fast food restaurant crews along with others who need a higher federal minimum wage to survive, but who will not get it,
• people of color on the streets and in prison who are victims of deep-rooted bias,
• mentally ill persons whose care has been cut,
• workers who will not be protected by adequate health and safety regulations,
• Native Americans on reservations with upwards of 69 percent unemployment rates,
• refugees from Aleppo prevented from entering the U.S.;
• undocumented immigrants deported to where there are few or no jobs for them.
These individuals on the vulnerable front line will be devastated as the bombshells of the Administration and Congress rain down on them.
It is not about us, but about those who are here and now under the gun. This knowledge is the thread we must hold in our hands and follow where it leads.
Kenan Heise is a retired Chicago Tribune reporter and the author of HE WRITES ABOUT US and THE BOOK OF THE POOR (both published by Marion Street Press.)