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Entries in politics (7)



And the war on women continues...

Currently, the house is 'working on' HR 1216, a bill that will make tremendous cuts to graduate medical education (read: residencies).  This bill is bad enough on its own--we are already facing a truly terrifying primary care shortage--but to rub salt in that gaping wound, Representative Virginia Fox (R-VA) has proposed an amendment that would bar the remaining funds from being used for abortion training.  This woman is hoping to get re-elected on the backs of her sisters.

She is no sister to me.

Amendments like this are smack in the face of reality and legality.  Newsflash: ABORTION IS STILL LEGAL.  This hasn't changed since 1973.  Sure, politicians more interested in getting re-elected than truly helping their constituencies have been successful in creating enormous barriers to access, but the procedure itself is still, in every sense of the word, LEGAL. 

I seriously feel like vomiting.  Nothing angers me more than legislators using gestures like this to get re-elected at the cost of good medical care.  This woman knows nothing about medicine.  She probably knows even less about abortion.  And I guarantee you she has NO IDEA what it takes to become a well-trained physician.  This amendment would force OB/GYN residencies to essentially ignore the most common out-patient surgery among women of child-bearing age. 

If all funding for abortion training is cut, where does Ms. Fox propose the money come from?  Or would she prefer that all OB/GYNs from here on out are incompetent at the procedure?  Shall we go back to the days of back-alley abortions?  Fact is, the programs that will be most hurt by this, the programs that depend most on federal funding, are in areas that need to be fluent in comprehensive women's health care.  These aren't hospitals with gobs of money and rich patients, these programs are in hospitals that work tirelessly to provide care to the under-served.

Outrageous.  This is so outrageous.  Do me a favor and call your rep to give his or her constituency aide an earful.  This isn't just about abortion, remember, this bill will make cuts that will cement our country's deficit in primary care docs. 


why you should care.

Apathy is not, has never been, and will never be sexy.  This is not to say “being sexy” is of the utmost importance—rather, it is to highlight that you do not win any points for saying, “I hate politics.”  In fact, it just shows that you aren’t willing to think hard enough about an issue, that you can’t be bothered to spend time reading the articles that may in fact cause you to care, and that perhaps you lack the chutzpah to take a stand. 


My blood may boil when I read about all the bullshit legislation the GOP is ushering through the halls of Congress, but it goes absolutely cold when someone (proudly, even) claims to “not care.”  While I hate legislation that aims to take away civil rights and funding for social programs, I truly despise apathy.


You see apathy requires a special kind of ignorance—the willful kind.  It’s actually relatively difficult to avoid all current events.  At some point, over the course of the day, most people are confronted with one political issue or another on which they could (ahem… should) take a stand.  Instead, the 40% or so of the electorate that can be relied upon to stay home the first Tuesday in November turn to topics that are much easier to discuss—say, the newest Josh Groban song or the score of Sunday’s football game.  This is not to say that I hate celebrity news (sadly, I find it enthralling), but rather to compare the relative gravity of the two topics.  The next vote in the House of Representatives may directly impact your future.   Even if you plan to play this Groban hit at your wedding, it would behoove you to check out the goings on of DC—and to give them some thought. 


Those who claim to find politics unworthy of their attention regularly lambast the world of politics as immoral/useless/corrupt.  I have always found this argument to be self-defeating.  Isn’t that more of a reason to care?  If you believe your representative is corrupt, if you think that the government is wasting time and money, perhaps you can invest some of the energy spurned from this disapproval into creating change.


Not only am I obsessed with politics; I can admire the genius behind any kind of political ingenuity.  While I may not agree with the ends—the means are often brilliant.  Politics may be a dirty business, but what business doesn’t have a few skeletons in its closet?  Like it or not, this dirty business is crucial—and we all have the right and responsibility to participate.  You hate the government?  Fine.  As a citizen, it is your right to fix it.  It is, after all, by the people and for the people.  That hasn’t changed. 


What has changed is the composition of our bodies of elected officials.  Once seemingly representative—a farmer here, a doctor there—politics has become a money game.  The people who represent you are often members of the wealthiest 2% of the American money pie.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean they are evil (or particularly interested in keeping that money), it certainly means they need to hear from you—the other 98% of America, the 98% that is most affected by the legislation that is sometimes little more than political gesturing.  Because while you ignore them, they are writing bills that will increase your tax burden while lowering that of the corporation you work for.


So… you can sit back in your cubicle, cruise Perez Hilton (hahahaha, not trying to make a joke, but awesome anyway) and sip your $4 latte from Starbucks.  I will be ignoring my schoolwork while hunched over my macbook, poring over NPR and NYT articles and sipping my $4 latte.  But it will probably be a skinny latte.  You know, gotta watch the calories. 


rebel rebel!

Lately I have been more happy to lay claim to a radical identity.  With a mix of disenchantment, passion and perhaps a little too much academic knowledge, I grow more comfortable with having radical views.  I have always gone back and forth on political identity, and for that matter cultural identity.  What is the worth of a political identity unless it is followed by action?  To me, political action is the only statement that holds power, whether that is voting, donating or giving time to causes one cares about.

However, political action is often where identity and pragmatism clash.  While I exist on the very edge of the left end of the political spectrum, I recognize that the person I wish would gain office probably never will.  It is a sad reality, but one I am willing to admit exists.  So what is one to do?  I am more motivated by fear of the other end of the teeter-totter of America's political gamut than I am by voting for/working for a candidate that I know will never win.  In 2004, when I worked as a Congressional District field lead for John Kerry, I can't say I was super passionate about the man.  He is brilliant, and for the most part he represents my views.  However, what got me out of bed every morning (after 4 hours of sleep) was my fear of another four years of George W. Bush.  I hated that man with such a visceral passion that I gave up many months of my life, many hours of sleep, two cars and almost my life for the campaign.  While I am glad to report that we won Michigan handily, clearly we lost the battle as a whole. 

Once I managed to get off my parents' couch and get back to school, I entered a depressive/anti-everything phase.  This was the first time I decided I was a "radical."  I moved into my first coop that summer.  The coops changed my life in many ways.  One of the most immediate things I learned was that maybe I wasn't a radical.  I happened to live in a house that was very, very politically active, and very, very radical.  For the most part, I was fascinated.  I soaked it up.  Did I go to protests?  Yes.  Was I willing to get arrested for the cause?  No.  Was I even able to give up Diet Coke during a campaign to kick Coke off of MSU's campus (a campaign which was run by my housemates).  For about three months.  I realized that I didn't live and breathe radical the way my housemates did.  It was confusing.  Maybe I wasn't radical?  Maybe I wasn't really as leftist as I thought...

Over the next couple of years I gained an informed oppositional consciousness.  I grew weary of capitalism, I became vegan, I ate locally and I distanced myself from party politics.  I felt no pressure from housemates (I had moved) and I felt no pressure from my former Democratic colleagues (I ignored their emails).  I was pretty happy with my internal compromise.  I was still active, though.  When a very vocal anti-choice woman wrote a letter to the editor about how The Vagina Monologues was anti-men, I wrote a scathing response, insinuating she was prude and mis-informed.  I was very active on campus and with my cooperative organization.  I was a quiet and comfortable radical--with no one to answer to. 

When I moved home and the Obama campaign was ramping up, I couldn't resist volunteering.  It was a heady time in politics, and I hated Sarah Palin--maybe more than I hated George W. Bush.  When I got to chatting with the local staff and they found out I was a (campaign) veteran, I was drafted.  Once again, I found myself caught up in precincts, volunteers, local democratic clubs and walk packets.  It was exhausting and I was less fired-up this time.  I made it through with the help of some wonderful, wonderful volunteers (I will never forget Pam, Terree or Brooke) and a hilarious downriver staff. 

I knew I could never do it again.

And then came medical school--perhaps the most politically bereft situation in which I have ever found myself immersed.  The year I began medical school, 2009, was the year of the great health care reform debate.  Every day NPR covered the endless debate between the GOP and the Dems.  I was glued to the radio.  When the public option failed, I felt incredibly let down by the President I had worked to elect.  I had foolishly expected him not to compromise on something that I held so near to my heart.  The weight of the health care debate felt newly heavy to me.  I never wanted to face future patients and refuse care only because they had no ability to afford what is necessary.  I would go to school and rant at the lunch table and no one would bat an eye.  Most of my friends (and not friends) had no idea what was going on.  No idea.  Despite the fact that this policy debate would have direct bearing on their future, they didn't seem to care.  I felt so, so alone.  And bored.

Medical school has proven to me that I am a radical.  It's easy to adopt this identity in a sea of moderates or conservatives, sons and daughters that have been handed their political views on a silver platter, along with their college education.  Don't get me wrong, a lot of my fellow students are really wonderful people--but the vast majority doesn't seem to have a clue what is going on in this country. 

As a feminist, lesbian, pro-choice, future provider, anti-Capitalist, I feel pretty lonely.  At the same time, I am so very comfortable with my various identities.  I feel empowered and passionate and I know that I am slowly carving my place in the future.  


committed to corporations.

Why are Americans so obsessed with businesses and corporations?  Aside from loving Target and pretty much anything aimed at materialistic twenty-somethings, I kind of hate corporations.  I recognize they are of vital importance when it comes to jobs and the GDP, but businesses should be working for us, not the other way around.  Corporations should be operating within a framework that minimizes exploitation of marginalized populations--but in America, this idea is beyond radical. 

In college, I hated business majors.  While they spent the weekends steeped in Popov and Axe body spray, I was in the library, growing a brain.  I hated when I was made to feel "lame" because I actually had to WORK for my degree.  I realize this does not describe every business major--but come on, they are notorious.  What did you major in?  Oh, business?  And what frat were you in?  Oh, you weren't?  Ahh too busy with intramural soccer.  Makes sense. 

After college, I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).  When scrounging for jobs in late December I was hired after no interview and no background check by Autumnwood of Livonia, a Ciena Health Company facility.  Nursing homes are pretty awful normally, but I love old people, so I figured even the worst one couldn't be too bad.  I was wrong. 

Routinely, patients were given shitty care--it was a matter of "business."  In mid-January, one of my residents was freezing.  She had one blanket and a comforter, but when you get older and lose that lovely layer of subcutaneous fat, you need more than that.  I went to the linen closet and found nothing but pillowcases.  There were no more blankets.  I went down to the laundry room to see if they had miraculously all ended up in the same wash.  Nope.  I went to the second floor to see if they had any.  No.  We were out of blankets and my residents were cold... in January.  Believing this to be truly unacceptable, I went to the owner of the facility.  I skipped the nurses, the head nurse and the building manager.  This was a big problem.  Perhaps I don't know my "place" as a CNA, but I certainly know a thing or two about what my residents need--they need to be warm and comfortable. 

The owner was an older white male who wore boring glasses, sweater vests, ill-fitting pants, and a gaudy gold watch.  I marched into his office a half an hour before my shift began in my attractive lime green scrubs and informed him of the problem I had the night before.  He looked around, almost like he was looking for a security guard to escort me out, and barely made eye contact with me.  He informed me that he wouldn't be buying any more blankets--you know, money was tight.  I asked him if he was cold where he slept last night.  He smirked.

"I guess I'll just let the families know that they don't pay enough to keep their parents warm, then."

New blankets showed up within a week.  (But they were itchy and stiff.)

Our love affair with capitalism hurts America's most vulnerable populations.  When decisions are made based on the good of the company, rather than the good of the individual, we all lose.  I think this is where Objectivist philosophy and I can ALMOST get along.  Unions are workers looking out for number one--being a member of a union is in some senses as "selfish" act.  People joing unions to protect their jobs and ensure decent benefits.  Objectivists really shouldn't hate on workers just because they are smart enough to organize.  You've met your match, corporations. 

But then there's Wisconsin.  I won't even disucss Wisconsin.  But I will link to this really awesome video that is both inspiring and depressing (considering the outcome).  Also, it's set to a really great song. 

With the recent supreme court ruling that made corporations basically equivelant to humans in terms of campaign financial contributions, you have to wonder, what is the obsession with defending corporations about? Americans seem obsessed with the notion of protecting corporate interests.  It's like defending a famous person who is accused of sexual assault--I am pretty sure that person (and these corporations) can defend themselves.  Why aren't we worried about the survivors of sexual assault?  Why do we question the wisdom of people who do the labor that makes the CEOs rich?

Recently, Mother Jones published a series of (very pretty) graphical representations of the distribution of wealth in the United States.  It is fascinating to look at these numbers and think about the motives of the Tea Party.  Are Bush-era tax cuts liberty?  Is supporting the growing gap between rich and poor the American dream?  Have I missed something?  Since when does a populist movment argue against the rights (and needs) of workers? 

Reality is this: the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.  The United States continues to dominate the developing world in terms of teen pregnancy and neonatal mortality, and the proportion of uninsured folks is alarming.  We aren't taking care of our own.  How can we truly be a great nation when the vast majority of our citizenry is suffering for a few fat cats?  I think the way we treat our disenfranchized says a lot about who we are as a country.

They aren't going to take you for a ride in their yacht. 



legislating power and control.

Today, the newly instated Congress passed a proposal to cut all funding to Title X.  They would like to have you believe that this is about abortion, about cutting the deficit.  It's not.

The Department of Health and Human Services describes Title X as "the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services."  In 2008, Title X:

provided family planning services to approximately five million women and men through a network of more than 4,500 community-based clinics that include State and local health departments, tribal organizations, hospitals, university health centers, independent clinics, community health centers, faith-based organizations, and other public and private nonprofit agencies. In approximately 75% of U.S. counties, there is at least one clinic that receives Title X funds and provides services as required under the Title X statute.

What most people don't seem to know about federal funding for family planning is that the Hyde Amendment, which functions as a rider that is attached to all budgetary measures, has blocked funding to abortion care since 1976.  For well over 30 years, not a single federal dollar has gone to an abortion.  However, Title X has allowed clinics across this country, often in the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods, to continue to function.  These clinics are so much more than centers for pregnancy termination.  In fact, most Planned Parenthood locations do not even perform abortions--medical or surgical.  These clinics test for communicable diseases like HIV and chlamydia; they provide prenatal care to woman who would otherwise have no access; they have peer educator programs to spread the word about pregnancy and STI prevention.  THIS is what the GOP voted to get rid of. 

The importance of preventive healthcare cannot be stressed enough.  Perhaps these legislators don't believe that prenatal care is predictive of maternal and neonatal outcomes.  I guess they would also rather see the spread of HIV than prevention and early treatment.  And I really, really hope the men and women who voted for this measure don't support breast cancer screening, because they just chopped a hell of a lot of funding for it. 

I am particularly disappointed in two groups of people who supported this measure: women and Democrats.  Why are you letting your self-loathing/internalized sexism and fear of voter repercussion (respectively) block access of care to millions of men and women?  While the roll call has yet to be put online, the list of Dems who voted against women has been released and is as follows:

  • Dan Boren (OK)
  • Jerry Costello (IL)
  • Joe Donnelly (IN)
  • Dan Lipinski (IL)
  • Mike McIntyre (NC)
  • Collin Peterson (MN)
  • Nick Rahall (WV), Silvestre Reyes (TX)
  • Mike Ross (AR)
  • Heath Shuler (NC)

Shock of shock, it's all men!

This measure won't pass the Senate.  Hell, I'd venture a guess that those who voted for it in Congress will have hell to pay--both at the polls and through their constituency intern.  Good.  I am furious and I know I am not alone.

This vote was a statement.  When the GOP and a few spineless/anti-woman Dems voted to cut Title X funding, they collectively said: "We don't want women to be able to control their own reproduction.  We want power.  We want control.  You took it away in 1973, and we are going to legislate it back to where it belongs--with men."  It is painful to see the retrogression that goes on around us these days.  So many years of progress will come to be meaningless if the GOP has their way. 

While it doesn't surprise me, the thing that should make fiscal conservatives mad is the fact that the party they elected (if they voted for them in 2010) is focusing on reducing access to reproductive health care instead of facing the budget deficit with real and meaningful measures.  Cuts can be made anywhere--specifically, by not extending the Bush-era tax cuts.  The money saved by cutting Title X pales in comparison to what kind of revenue will be lost by sparing the wealthy.  That's right, the GOP is choosing to make a statement instead of choosing to reduce the deficit. 

I am angry.  Join me in supporting Planned Parenthood as they face an uphill battle against an anti-woman legislature.