Missing In Action: Our Elected Representatives
Missing In Action: Our Elected Representatives
Taking Action: We the People
by C.A. Matthews
I’d hoped to give more details about local town hall events featuring “big name guests of honor,” but, for the most part, they were no shows. It’s not like the distinguished gentleman weren’t at home. US Senator Rob Portman had sneaked into the venue at Terra State Community College in Fremont, Ohio several hours earlier than scheduled and never came out to speak to his constituents standing outside. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th District) didn’t show for several events planned in the area during his recess week, but he reportedly did show up for a Republican fundraiser golf tournament.
Golf balls and rich Republicans tend to garner these two politicians’ attention more than “scary” ordinary Americans asking questions about the ACA and why it’s okay to dump coal waste into Ohio’s streams. At the very least, Congressman Jim Jordan (last week’s top story) wasn’t afraid to talk with his constituents at the Warren G. Harding Presidential Site in Marion. (Way to go, Jim! I guess you don’t golf, or Bob and Rob thought they made a better team without you?)
On Wednesday, February 22, about one hundred activists stood outside the conference center at the community college in Fremont waiting for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) to come out and address the crowd’s concerns about health care and other issues. The senator had arrived several hours earlier than announced and was already in the building and wouldn’t make an appearance it was later discovered, but this fact didn’t deter the activists. They stayed to share information about upcoming events with the public.
The big story at the Portman Protest was how those who purchased a table at the fundraiser (non-Republican constituents) were told at the last minute they could not attend. These individuals paid the Sandusky County GOP $30 a seat to get into the conference center and hear Senator Portman speak and ask questions. They were told at the last minute by the local Republican party they couldn’t attend because the senator’s staff instructed the county Republicans to not let in non-Republicans constituents who might act “disruptive.”
Almost immediately Senator Portman’s staff denied discriminating against these individuals and said they were excluded because the Sandusky County GOP didn’t want to include them. So… you decide where the buck stops, since they’re still passing it back and forth!
Over 200 attended a rally on “The Future of America’s Health Care” sponsored by Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio at Bowling Green State University on Saturday, February 25. Several groups hosted tables as well, providing information about area progressive organizations, petitions and upcoming events. Congressman Bob Latta (R-OH 5th district) was a no show in his hometown — as were US Senators Rob Portman (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) and a dozen other elected officials who were also invited. Only two sent letters of regret stating they couldn’t attend due to prior commitments and offered their support — US Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D) and state Representative Steve Arndt (R).
Ohio state Senator Randy Gardner (R) and state Representative Michael Sheehy (D) attended and gave their insights on American health care, fielding questions along with Dr. John Ross, a local physician/teacher and activist on public health care topics. The discussion was lively and poignant at times. Several participants shared their stories of how the ACA and Medicare has saved their lives and the lives of family members. State Senator Gardner did his best to handle concerns many had about the Republican proposal to abolish the ACA and institute “tax breaks” instead. As low income persons generally do not pay any federal income taxes, what “tax break” would these individuals receive to pay for private health coverage? (He didn’t know.) Both Gardner and Sheehy said as state officials they cannot predict what their federal counterparts will do, but they both were in favor of Governor John Kasich’s decision to accept the ACA’s expanded Medicaid program, as over 700,000 Ohioans have benefited from it.
“Health care is a right,” said Representative Sheehy, declaring it to be our next human rights struggle akin to the abolition of slavery and women gaining the right to vote. He noted citizens live longer in countries which provide universal health care. Dr. Ross shared that Taiwan in 1995 instituted a “Medicare for all” health coverage for its citizens after studying the US Medicare system and deeming it the world’s best health care delivery system. Dr. Ross also noted how the idea of the open market doesn’t work simply in this case because health care isn’t a consumer product: “People don’t have two heart operations because they’re cheap or on sale.” Medicare for all is a smart business decision and would help entrepreneurs start their own businesses and create more jobs for Americans.
The main thread which ran through these town hall events was well stated by Senator Gardner. When speaking with a class of fifth graders, he asked them, “Who is my boss?” They answered “the president” or “the governor” until he told them, “No, you are my boss. I work for you.” This is a lesson all Americans need to keep in mind as they continue to speak out and share their concerns with their elected representatives.