By GENE H. McINTYRE
There are 435 representatives in the U.S. House, each representing close to 733,000 of their fellow Americans. This number is derived from the U.S. population number of 318.9 million by the 2010 census. The roles and duties of each member of Congress are understood to include representation, legislation, and constituent service and education as well as political and electoral activities. This writer expects his representative and all the others to come to grips with the dimensions of their role by developing a lawful approach to their tasks, demonstrating fidelity to those who send them.
What’s happened most recently in the U.S. House of Representatives, however, does not embrace the expected standard. Take the example of House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin. He was gleeful the other day with the GOP health plan because it’s “us keeping our promises.” Yet, his statement is only partially true as, while he and his fellow Republicans did pass a regressive health care bill, one has to question how well he’s representing his constituents since it’s anticipated that at least 23 million Americans will find it financially impossible to afford the premiums, expected to rise by 850 percent.
Then, too, Ryan, Trump and a majority of GOP representatives now find themselves in an awkward place. They made all kinds of specific guarantees tied to their health care legislation and then proceeded to break most of them without explanation which could and should make their back-home visits before and during 2018 campaign successes no walk in the public park. Here’s a condensed overview of what they’ve done: first, made promises; second, broke promises; and third, hide the fact they made the promises in the first place. Sadly, Oregon’s 2nd District representative, Greg Walden, gleefully joined that GOP chorus.
In each representative’s case, there are Americans from every level of the economic ladder, most poor to most wealthy. Without help from the federal government in the form of Medicaid and other federal assistance programs, millions of these people cannot afford health insurance and will only seek medical help, if it’s available at all within accessible distance, from emergency care.
What gets to this writer the most is that we are a comparatively wealthy nation that could take much better care of all our people than we do and that an inordinate amount of everything goes to a small percentage of the population seldom needing more than what they’ve already got: This being most disgusting in the fact that while the U.S. House-passed bill makes deep cuts to the needy, the bill coincidentally provides millions of dollars in tax relief to the wealthy. The Republican members of the U.S. House thereby defeat the principles of democracy by serving the few and sending the country evermore close to times and circumstances of the late 1800s, when only the wealthy could afford the American Dream—and medical attention when needed.
Meanwhile, the 100-member U.S. Senate has a mere handful Republican senators, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell working on their version of TrumpCare. The cynic here does not see promise for a Senate bill that serves all Americans when the supporters are 16 highly conservative, older, white men (with no female senators included) who have a reputation for putting GOP ideology and big-money contributors before nation and citizens. Hence, from the U.S. Senate a bill is believed on its way that will be without provisions for the nation’s middle class and poor.
(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)