Not being represented by officials

Posted Sept. 29, 2009, at 4:42 p.m.

Sen. Olympia Snowe wants a trigger. Too bad the rest of the gun is pointed at your health. The Associated Press had a story Monday with a headline that read: “Snowe is the Woman with the Clout on Healthcare.” They say it’s because she’s the lone Republican on the Finance Committee who may vote for the health care reform bill if her “trigger” gets put in place. The trigger is the mechanism that will release the public option bullet only if the insurance companies act greedy five or so years after health care reform is passed. Judging from past behavior I doubt there’s any question how those companies will act, but the senator insists on waiting.

That means that her clout comes from the likelihood she’ll do the bidding of the private insurers who have brought the U.S. health care system to its knees by denying claims and disallowing procedures and turn her back on the people who overwhelmingly desire that the public option be in the bill from the get-go.

How sad for the voter. A health care activist friend of mine said that Olympia Snowe committing billions of tax dollars and borrowed funds to this health care bill while at the same time ignoring the sentiment of more than three-quarters of the electorate — and not just the national electorate but Maine voters as well — is truly taxation without representation.

My friend doesn’t believe that tax dollars matter anywhere near as much to the Finance Committee — upon which Sen. Snowe sits — as special interest dollars matter. I agree.

I have a fantasy. Well, actually I have a bunch of them. I bet you do too. Ours may be a little different and most of mine are pretty predictable. Like the fantasy where every elected official has to live on food stamps for a month. And they have to walk into a grocery store and use them without telling the clerk that they “really aren’t on food stamps.”

Another one of mine is each and every member of Congress and each state legislature has to fill out the paperwork for the veterans in their state. And that if any veteran is denied services or benefits that the elected officials then pay those benefits out of their own pockets until the problem is resolved.

I have another fantasy that no elected officials are allowed to send their children or grandchildren to anything but public school. And the kids don’t get extracurricular activities like art, sports or music unless the school department provides it.

Oh and one of my favorites is that anyone who puts down the migrant populations in the U.S. must do the job that the migrant came here to do for one month. They have to pick grapes, clean toilets or work in slaughter-houses, etc. And they have to spend that month learning the migrant’s language as well.

But back to my fantasy about the senators on the Senate Finance Committee: I fantasize that every member of the committee who is against the public option or against universal health care has to pay back just $10 of insurance lobby contributions for each person from their state without access to health care.

You can look up statistics on the under- and uninsured at Families USA, a Web site using U.S. Census Bureau figures. In Olympia Snowe’s case, Maine has about 114,000 uninsured. So she’d have to return $1.14 million to the health care lobby. Sen. Max Baucus, the chair of the committee, his home state of Montana has 279,000 uninsured so he’d have to pay back $2.79 million.

No problem! Daily Kos reports that “Sen. Olympia Snowe raised $1,147,630 from the health and insurance sectors over the course of her career.” She could keep that trigger amendment with a clean conscience if she turned the money back and still have enough left over for a nice trip to a spa or something.

And committee chair Sen. Baucus who wants to fine people who don’t buy health insurance? Well, the Washington Post says that between 2003 and 2008 he’s taken $3 million from the insurance industry. This much money going to our elected officials ought to trip our trigger so that we wake up and realize that they don’t represent us.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com

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