Ferguson and the Politics of Healthcare

f01_59546488On August 9th, when campaigns across the country were beginning to ramp up for the 60-day sprint to the November elections Michael Brown was fatally shot during an altercation with a Ferguson, Missouri policeman, Darren Wilson. The circumstances of the incident – primarily that Mr. Brown had been unarmed – set off a firestorm of protests in the hot summer nights of this St. Louis suburb.

Those flames were reignited late yesterday afternoon when it was announced that the grand jury reviewing the case would not indict Officer Wilson on any charges stemming from the incident. From relief to acceptance to disappointment to outrage and insolence to rioting and looting, the decision has placed the nation’s issues of inequality front and center again ironically enough just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

In the final days leading up to the November 4th election Democratic Senate candidates in the South sought to use racial tensions as a tactic to encourage support and voter turnout of the African American population. As we know now that effort didn’t work out so well as Republican David Perdue defeated Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn in an open Georgia race while Republicans Thom Tillis and Tom Cotton defeated Democrats Kay Hagan and Mark Pryor in North Carolina and Arkansas, respectively.

If Bill Cassidy, the Republican candidate facing Democrat Mary Landrieu in Louisiana’s December 6th runoff election, wins (polls currently show he has a substantial lead), Republicans will have secured a 54 to 46 advantage in the Senate – a pickup of 9 seats and control of the United States Congress. And thus, if you were to believe the more optimistic sort in the Republican Party, they have secured a mandate to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, whether in total or piece by piece.

That was I believe, until yesterday. What is happening – what has happened – in Ferguson is community self-destruction on a par with some of the worst cases this nation has ever seen. The unsupportable actions of those rioting and looting belie and disguise the very real and troubling root causes of community and individual impoverishment that are at the heart of the anger and frustration playing out in Ferguson and across the country.

There are very real income and wealth disparities in this country, and they continue to get worse. I have maintained this is, in part, a byproduct of foundational and structural changes occurring in the US economy resulting from deindustrialization that could take several generations to play out.  It is clearly also the result of a failed welfare state that has irreparably influenced the social and individual psyche of what value means in a market economy.

Regardless of what got us here, with the chasm of inequity growing daily how can it be a politically practical reality that Congress should rescind the efforts to provide access to an affordable, minimum level of quality healthcare in this country? And with the aforementioned structural obstacles facing our economy how can we not seek to proactively reign in the runaway healthcare costs that are putting such a tremendous drag on economic growth?

Look deeper into what is happening in Ferguson and cities across the country. Recognize that under the foolish, destructive and misguided actions of the violent few is a growing population of impoverished from every race, creed and nationality in this country. How can we go backwards on healthcare now?

Cheers,
  ~ Sparky