Guest Column –
By Brad Nolen –
If you listened to Governor Bentley’s State of the State address, you probably noticed that he mainly thinks of us, Alabamians, as workers, not citizens. Also that mean old U.S. Government can’t help anyone and just wants in on the dysfunctional ménage a trois between Americans, health Insurers and their doctors, that sacred trust.
First, let me say that, like the Governor, I too believe that “Alabama is truly a great state.” He is correct in calling us “hard working people, people who want to provide well for their families, seek to live freely and are driven to care for their neighbors, friends and communities.” But I think he missteps when he separates the people from the State of Alabama. I assert that we, the people, the “neighbors, friends and communities” are the State of Alabama.
And though we are so many other important things to each other, before we are workers, Governor Bentley has set for himself the singular task of creating jobs, and therefore has difficulty seeing us as anything more than workers….or would-be workers, lacking only a little job training.
As the Governor explains, he has been hard at his given task to get Alabamians hired. But, he takes a moment to explain that there are dark forces that would and do endeavor to undo the good work he’s trying to do on behalf of Alabama workers. Though he has made much progress in his quest, he is the first to remind us that “[t]here is never freedom for the Breadwinner who is dependent on the government.”
And of course, we all know he’s not talking about his Republican super majority in the Alabama State House, nor is he likely talking about the Columbiana City Council. He’s referring to the U.S. Federal Government. Governor Bentley has spotted that federal government of ours hanging round Alabama street corners, trying to hook us poor, unsuspecting Alabamian-Americans on addictive government programs.
Governor Bentley will likely be the first to agree that if you go and feed a hungry man, then he’s probably just going to want to go on eating. He might tell us that if you offer unemployment assistance, then no one will want to do anything at all. And furthermore, he just might remind us that to help our fellow man, is to rob him of his opportunity to help himself.
The Governor said it best when he described for us that rarest of birds, Freedom, and then reminded us that if we just show this beautiful creature to everyone regardless of merit, would just rob them of the true joy that is the toil and loss one suffers just for a glimpse of her.
The Governor explains so eloquently, “Freedom is only found in the Land that offers opportunity. That comes from hard work and sacrifice.”
And though every Alabamian-American can surely be afforded some opportunity, we cannot all expect to enjoy the same amount and quality of Freedom.
Governor Bentley appears to understand clearly that Americans cannot have everything. He must know that we cannot continue to provide the buffet of government subsidies to big businesses; we can’t free the most successful Americans to prosper even further at everyone else’s expense; we can’t maintain control of the planet with our BabelTower-Military-Surveillance-State. No, Governor Bentley knows we can’t keep any of these vast treasures if we keep feeding the elephant in the room.
And we all know that voracious beast, against which our hero, the Governor would land a blow, “federal government-run programs, intended to offer assistance, or a safety net for Americans who are struggling.”
Those programs today have grown, expanded and have become a “lumbering giant” threatening our nation’s economic stability, national security and the very freedom of our people.”
The Governor understands that in order to have a stable economy, the biggest darn war-machine ever, and a laissez faire environment for anyone who can afford to enjoy … it’s necessary that maybe we offer less assistance, remove the nets, and let the weak or unsuccessful fall. He knows that we may all be in this boat together, but if we let a few fall overboard, then there’ll just be more room and oysters for the most deserving amongst us.
The Governor would surely be a believer in what’s been meticulously constructed in the U.S. over the past 50 years or so, a blind faith in the correctness of a caste system mirroring the distribution of resources, herein those with the most are at the top and in control, and those with the least resources are rightly at the bottom and at the mercy of those with the “controlling interest,” in a word, Captalism, which, as it has played out in the U.S., over the aforementioned timeframe, has produced the narrowest wealth concentration in our nation’s history.
Under the circumstances, one might think it out of character for the Governor to decry a market-based effort to improve American’s access to healthcare. But he does so not because it sells, to the Health Insurance Mafia, a permanent seat between us and our doctors. No, he knows it isn’t the insurance companies, the profit-taking people with whom we argue about what is and is not “covered” by the contract we purchased from them … no, Governor Bentley knows it is the government, our government, the American government, that is the problem. He knows that it is the government, our government that would truly compromise “one of the most trusted relationships, that of doctors and their patient[s].”
The Governor knows that the federal government is to blame for all of our current woes with regard to the Affordable Care Act. It has nothing at all to do with the poor, beleaguered insurance companies that helped write the durn thing.
The Health Insurance Industry to whom we were gifted on a silver platter, they had absolutely nothing at all to do with developing “in-network” doctors lists — it’s the federal government that said “we could keep our Doctor – [and] that turned out not to be true.”
The Companies that Aggregate our health dollars, now by mandate, they had zero control over the cancellation of so many policies. No again, Governer Bentley accurately observes that it was not the Insurance Industry that “told us we could keep our policy – something that’s Not True.”
Our Governor knows those insurance boys are just trying to make an honest buck. He knows they had no control over or influence whatsoever on their premiums going up, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Nope. Governor Bentley always knows better. He didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. He’s been around a long time, and he’s learned enough to know when something’s too good to be true.
But, aside from the lies and disappointments (that, one more time, had nothing to do with the insurance lobbyists at the table) why else does the good Governor lament the Affordable Care Act?
Well, it seems he rejects as fantasy the notion of receiving benefit of any kind from our federal tax dollars (except presumably that of a huge military and intelligence state), because to him this money is some kind of fairytale. It’s as if his imagination fails him (and us, ultimately).
Of the Affordable Healthcare Act program, Governor Bentley says, “Now they are telling us we’ll get ‘free money’ to expand Medicaid.” It is as if he can only imagine people organizing their resources to run for-profit corporations; but the idea of American citizens pooling our tax dollars to run beneficial federal programs, programs that promote more directly the general welfare of us all … well, that to him seems just a myth. Like manna from heaven maybe?
Certainly it is NOT the welcome return of some of our tax dollars in the form of services, the kinds of services one might expect from a government constructed by a civilized people (tax dollars diverted maybe from the lion’s share that is currently commandeered and consumed by the LargestMonumentToForce&WarfareEverConstructed).
As for the government, even if we build it, staff it, and fund it … any gain we as Americans may see will be, to Governor Bentley, ill-begotten, unearned, and somehow “free.” As he tells us, addressing us at least more like school children and not, for once as workers, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Nothing is Free. The money the federal government is spending with wild abandon is not ‘federal’ dollars – those are your dollars, your hard-earned tax dollars. There is no difference between Federal money and your money.”
And clearly we don’t want those dollars back, certainly not for poverty triage, and especially not to give more hard-working Alabama citizens access to healthcare that remains too expensive and out of reach for so many … unless, of course, you can prostrate yourself before an employer who happens to be a master who is benevolent enough to offer health insurance … and that, in spite of our presumed preference for freedom from assistance of any kind. (Shhhh! Y’all just hush for a minute about roads and bridges, public transportation, food safety personnel, public utilities, public works, parks and recreation … shh!)
No, Governor Bentley knows the last thing we want to do is improve conditions, at least not by using our money, the tax moneys we’ve already arranged to be collected for the maintenance of the commons and to pursue the goals civilization, those goals that aren’t profit driven, like democracy, literacy, equality, fraternity, etc…
And, mind you, though we don’t pay much attention to where those tax dollars go, our taxes are collected, presumably, not by some big specter government, but by the public servants, whom we have hired and do hire to maintain our great society (whether or not they think so little of their efforts as to refuse compensation). Governor Bentley though, he knows the government is a dependency-pedaling pusher, and warns us to refuse the benefit of the systems we built and staffed.
But I’m not so sure about the goodly Governor, even if he ain’t been paid a dime. It seems that he forgets that the government is just the people we’ve hired to build and maintain our civilization’s infrastructure.
He seems to forget about the people, as people, HIS employers. The people who hired HIM as part of that government-at-large, to work for them, us, Alabamians … as citizens … as mothers-fathers-sisters-brothers-cousins-aunts&uncles … as neighbors … but not as workers, because as workers, we can negotiate our own deals, both independently, and/or collectively if we choose to organize, because such is our right to choose
We don’t need a governor to act as intercessor in the workplace, as some Top-Union-Boss for us all. No, the position of Governor is of a notably higher order. The Governor’s responsibility is that of preserving and improving what passes for the common good in Alabama. Because … remember, the Governor is part of that government we, Alabamians constructed together, the government we daily re-construct together, the government that organizes, protects and maintains the civil society where we live, love, raise our families, play and even work.
One has to wonder if the frontier-Alabama of Governor Bentley’s imagining, one with little or no government, would provide an existence that is any more civil than that of the well-documented, brutal and unforgiving wilds of the American West.
But the Governor appears to miss his responsibility to us, as anything but as workers (though it should be noted again that it is he that is the employee in this relationship).
To Governor Bentley his “role [is] to create an environment where there is opportunity for people to get a good job, to train and get the skills they need, to get a good education at an early age and to continually encourage people to break free of the bondage of dependency, [excepting the dependency on their good and gracious employers] to stand on their own two feet, and we do this by giving him or her an opportunity for – and the satisfaction of having a job.”
To hell with maintaining the commons and furthering the non-monetary goals of civilization, the current Governor’s office is in constant conversation with the keepers of capital, and selling Alabamians to the highest bidders. It’s as though he’s running the biggest staffing agency in the south, and for free! No wait … free is bad … let’s put a pin in that complicated “f-word” and just say he’s working pro bono. He’s just like a sweet, old daddy, who just wants to see us all married-off to good, decent employers.
Or, maybe seen another way, the good Guv’nor has taken on the role of head auctioneer and dragged us, up on the block to point to our strengths: We work hard. We’re loyal and obedient.
We respect authority and know our places. We are poor and only want work-training and paychecks. We just want a chance to prove ourselves and to beat out the next guy. We don’t care about our air, our water, the Gulf, healthy food, the folks we don’t know, living wages, or good schools … much less about democracy or local control of the purse strings *ahem!*.
Nope! Big business, polluters, frackers, big-box-retail giants, fast food conglomerates, and agri-business behemoths … all those that find themselves in need of inexpensive and docile workers … come to Alabama … or rather, come on up to the big house in Montgomery and strike a deal!
These folks down here just want to work, nothing more … and they are for sale. Just see the Governor.
He knows what Alabamians need. Nuthin’ but a J-O-B.
Brad Nolen is a concerned citizen and a resident of Mobile, Alabama.
© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.