via Alternet (11.14.11):
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee,” is getting closer to its deadline to determine how to reduce our nation’s deficit and meet our financial obligations. They are weighing their options regarding programs that form the fabric of our safety net, including Medicaid. If they can reach an agreement, it will have a profound impact on millions of people with disabilities for whom Medicaid is a lifeline to health and independent living.
Corporations, associations, experts, and other organized interests will weigh in on this issue, but their voices cannot and should not be the only voices that the “Super Committee” hears. It is vitally important that everyday Americans weigh in too. Speaking as someone who has worked in politics and public policy for a number of years, I can’t emphasize enough how important constituent engagement is in our democratic process. The twelve members of the “Super Committee” have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. Considering the challenges they and the rest of the Congress face coming to a consensus on most issues, it is critical that they hear from people who want to have a constructive conversation.
I am one of these people. As a person of faith and as an advocate for Jewish federations across North America, I want the Joint Committee to protect the dignity of all Americans. As a person who has worked in politics and public policy, I want smart, pragmatic solutions. As the brother of someone with a disability, I want real people, like him, to have access to Medicaid, which ensures a higher quality of health and life for millions.
From a very young age, I was taught to be involved with my community and to care about the welfare of others. In our home, the Jewish faith informed our sense of social justice. Thanks to my faith and my parents’ example, I always felt a compelling interest in the welfare of others. In my experience, most Americans believe, as I do, that we must love our neighbors and do right by them. Reasonable people differ over what that means, but I believe that if politicians would return to their faith roots and their values, that would inform them about the decisions that they have to make.
When we turn to our core values for guidance, we know that we cannot abandon those who rely upon Medicaid. Loving thy neighbor means doing what we can to ensure that our neighbors are able to live with dignity, comfort and security. Those values get lost in the rhetoric and the politics of ensuring victory in the next election, but we can restore these values to our political system. People of all faiths and belief systems can refocus our leaders’ attention to their responsibilities as our elected leaders by reminding them of how these values inform our own decisions, as individuals, families and communities, to make wise decisions that ensure the common good and protect those most vulnerable.
I speak from the personal experience of seeing how the fiscal insolvency of our government affects my family. My brother, Paul, has Asperger Syndrome. Medicaid is his secondary health insurance, supplementing his coverage under Medicare as a result of our mother’s passing several years ago. Medicaid insures that should Paul have a catastrophic illness, he would not lose the few assets he has earned and would not be financially destitute for the remainder of his life. Earlier this year, the State of Florida dropped him from Medicaid as part of an effort to cut the state budget. Fortunately, after three months of appeals, his Medicaid coverage was reinstated. Paul is fortunate to have me and our father to advocate on his behalf, but I know that most people do not have voices speaking for them. It is in that vein, and on behalf of all persons with disabilities and others who rely on Medicaid, that I am telling the “Super Committee” that we as a nation must do right by these people and ensure they are able to have access to the care they need.
The fact that our complex and overwhelming debt problems are now before the “Super Committee” does not diminish our own role in the process. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, “the ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and Senators and Congressmen and Government officials, but the voters of this country.” Call your Member of Congress. Attend a town hall. Write a letter. Make a phone call. Most of all, start a conversation with your neighbors, friends and family. Make sure that your values are front and center when the “Super Committee” makes its decisions, and make sure that your voice is heard.
David Feinman is Senior Legislative Associate for The Jewish Federations of North America. He is one of six Americans on a shadow Super Committee called “America’s Super Committee” established by United Cerebral Palsy and the American Association of People with Disabilities.