Stupid, Lazy, And Cruel

 

Photo: Pennlive.com

Photo: Pennlive.com

We don’t often wade into politics on this website. We deliver a fairly narrow band of news and analysis and we try, mightily, to keep our focus.

But sometimes, as in the case of Governor Corbett’s stupid, lazy, and cruel decision to reject the federally funded expansion of Medicaid to cover underinsured Pennsylvanians, we can’t hold back.

Our profession of writers, photographers, historians, journalists, designers, and community activists is filled with people who work stunningly hard for relatively little pay, no guarantees, and rarely–rarely–health insurance. At the Hidden City Daily, which is one small arm of the small non-profit Hidden City Philadelphia, we struggle to afford compensation for our writers and photographers, almost all of whom are freelancers in one way or the other. Health care insurance? Just don’t get sick–or injured.

The same goes for a growing population of people who work in food, technology, entertainment, the arts, retail, tourism, education…all fields including journalism that are rapidly innovating to meet new market demands and that employ younger people and immigrants–those among the most unlikely to be insured. The innovation is wonderfully productive for our economy–and practically the lifeblood of the “New Philadelphia”–but it comes at a severe cost: decent pay and health insurance.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act rightfully compensates for that by expanding the Medicaid program to workers who can’t afford coverage. As he said in his second inaugural address, “The commitments we make to each other–through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security–these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”

Image: Advisory Board Company

Image: Advisory Board Company

That is one great country minus a bunch of recalcitrant and simpleminded states, including Pennsylvania. For though the federal government will pay for the vast majority of the costs associated with Medicaid expansion and though Pennsylvanians will pay through their federal taxes for it, they won’t be eligible to receive the aid unless Governor Corbett is forced to change his mind. Last week, he told the US Department of Health and Human Services no thanks.

That’s turning down some $17 billion in federal aid and leaving 750,000 Pennsylvanians without health coverage they would get if they lived in any other state in this region of the country (and that they’re paying for anyway). Let me be clear: this is a radical ideological move that puts Corbett in league with Rick Perry of Texas and other severe right wing governors.

In a column Sunday morning, the Inquirer’s Karen Heller calls the move by Corbett “brutally wrong.”

But it’s worse than that, for in some oblique fantasy of ideological purity, Corbett once again is stupidly turning away massive funding that will improve the lives and health outcomes of people who need it most (while giving callous lip service to giving incentives to employers to provide health care coverage). He did the same hear no evil routine early in his term by choosing not to tax the out of state oil and gas companies that are extracting our natural wealth and turning it into their own profit. And meanwhile, by choosing not to tax natural gas extraction he forced public school districts to cut programs, staff, and educational opportunities.

All this reeks to me of a fundamentally lazy governor who can’t be bothered to leverage real economic and political opportunities because they might necessitate a creative realpolitik and an entrepreneurial and active public sphere. While he wants the rest of us to innovate, the Governor sits on his hands and tells us real solutions don’t meet his 19th century taste test.

The upshot, of course, is that the best and brightest writers, culinary innovators, artists, photographers, technologists, and entrepreneurs will take their brains and their guts elsewhere to some other state that will support them while they take chances. Meanwhile, Governor Cruelty will finish out his days in the cornfield mansion waiting for the imaginary jobs to come to come rolling in.

Note: It doesn’t have to end this way. E-mail Governor Corbett at Governor@pa.gov or call (717-787-2500) the Governor and tell him rejecting Medicaid expansion in Pennsylvania is unacceptable.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



23 Comments


  1. I’d like you to know that the link to the governor’s email is bad.

    Governor@pa.gov

  2. How are state and oil companies extracting natural wealth. Since solar and wind etc are still too expensive, would natural gas be preferable then oil, coal or nuclear. Every single american and or entity owns the subsurface rights to their land, so i dont think your talking about wealth from a monetary stand point. And what’s so bad about profit? what do think all these developers architects etc that you cover do for a living? they’re in for profit, if they weren’t, these neighborhoods would never get redeveloped.

    Secondly, there is a difference between health insurance and health care, (something we have failed to realize in this country) Health insurance in pennsylvania is inexpensive for a young person. I just looked up plans. And as a 30 yr old non-smoker, I can purchase a basic plan for as low as $60 a month and I can get a lot more for close to $200. That expense could easily be paid for by not having a car. Something that has been encouraged quite a bit on this website.

  3. Years ago in Ithaca, NY I started a health co-op whose members paid $100/YEAR to be covered for 12 categories of common emergency anywhere in the world, and who now own their own free clinic. http://www.ithacahealth.org Approved by State of NY and all local officials.

    Arriving here in 2005, I began to organize a similar co-op but was prohibited by the State of PA. As a result, wrote the book “A Crime Not a Crisis” http://www.luvpower.org/painsure.html detailing collusion by legislators, regulators and insurers to keep their game exclusive and expensive.

    My book “Health Democracy” explains how such co-ops can become a national network on which universal coverage flourishes that’s affordable, genuinely nonprofit, democratic and humane. Currently organizing the Patch Adams free clinic here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b94FPC2LKQ

  4. Wow and New Jersey is “leaning towards not participating”? These Republicans make me sick. Here’s Christie’s contact information too. http://www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/

  5. Wholeheartedly agree with you Nathaniel. Ideology is trumping policy solution yet again in the Corbett administration (and frankly most of the official Republican positions on any given subject the government has an interest in). If we can’t ensure a basic level of security for those left out of our private employer-sponsored health insurance system, we will continue to see higher healthcare costs when people without insurance defer health monitoring and a preventable disease becomes chronic or terminal.

  6. While I understand your frustrations relating to Corbett’s decision, it probably wasn’t the best idea to provide political commentary and opinion relating to an issue that isn’t germane to the focus and mission of Hidden City. We live in extremely polarizing times and perhaps it would be unwise to assume that all of your readers wouldn’t be bothered in their reaction to an article such as this, which seems to mock and lambast their own political beliefs. For the sake of your readership and continued success, I suggest that in the future HC restrain itself from proving opinion on subjects which are not relevant to it’s stated mission. It’s readers have developed certain expectations and standards of what they believe HC is and thus, it would be unfortunate if articles like these would distort it’s intended purpose or induce a loss of readership.

    HC’s contributors, writers, photographers, readers and supports all have one thing on common: A love of the places, which make this city beautiful, interesting and unique. Let’s not forget that…

    • Alex, because you left such a thoughtful comment, I thought I’d respond. I agree with you almost entirely and that’s why I nearly didn’t publish this editorial (I might have instead published it on my own website or elsewhere). And clearly you understand what motivates us at Hidden City–it all, true enough, comes down to place.

      But my understanding of place–of this place, Philadelphia–is embedded in a long reading of history. That history is filled with Pennsylvania governors who regularly carry out their callous disdain for Philadelphia just as it has also been filled with Philadelphians who have profited on the backs of Pennsylvania railroad workers and miners. This governor’s actions, which have quite relentlessly caused pain to the poorest Philadelphians, I can’t help but feel is situated in this historic tension and antipathy.

      Beyond that, I really think this issue matters to our constituents in a significant way. The innovative Philadelphia that I think we are part of is threatened by this ideological move. It’s going to have certain and lasting impact on people’s lives. It’s going to cause super smart, hardworking, and motivated people to move elsewhere–to states where they will be guaranteed health coverage.

      As an editor, there is something else at play, too. Our readers, you are right, expect certain things from us and that expectation is part of the trust that develops with community. But at the same time, editorial content can become quickly formulaic and stale. Thus it’s up to us to stray once in a while–it keeps us all on our toes.

      Thanks for being such a close and careful reader.

      –ed.

      • You should have left it on your own site. I’m pretty annoyed you are putting your personal politics on this site.

        Stick to your mission statement and get off the soap box.

      • Sorry, Editor, but I have to agree with Alex, although I understand your most admirable motives. Hidden City must not be politicized. Please!

        The debate over the merits/demerits of the ACA is a healthy one, yes. But, if you once enter into the fray (well, I suppose you have already), your primary mission may become sidetracked and you stand in danger of losing the support of people like me who have just discovered you and love what you do best.

        The temptation is great to refute one or more of the points in your article, but that would be falling into the same trap, wouldn’t it?

        Please do not go down this path. –rf

      • Love this site. But hate these politics. That’s the kind of article that could turn me off to this site, and it’s mission, for good. Please don’t. I mean, should we debate religion here as well? We share a common interest. Let’s stick to that.

  7. “Our profession of writers, photographers, historians, journalists, designers, and community activists is filled with people who work stunningly hard for relatively little pay, no guarantees, and rarely–rarely–health insurance.”

    You want health insurance? Pay for it yourself. Why should the rest of us pay for your poor career choice? “Community activists”? Please.

    You used to be able to get catastrophic coverage for not alot of money, but not any more. Thanks Obama! All hail Dear Leader!

  8. Popkin, thanks for reminding us that the “creative class” are a burden on the working class of Philadelphia. So much for the theory that you are contributing to the city. You earn next to nothing, but expect recognition that you chose a different path of sacrifice for your art, then your friends in college who have a far greater income. How romantic, but so 19th century.

  9. These comments are now going into the shitter because of a personal political post on an otherwise great site.

    If you post ONE more, one sided (regardless of if I agree on it or not) post, I will remove any funding and all support. This is not a political action site. I did NOT sign up for YOUR personal view points on a health care issue.

  10. Thank you Nathaniel for your work on this site and for this very important post. I read Karen’s article on Sunday and have been searching the Internet for a group that is protesting Corbett’s profound neglect of PA’s citizens. I agree with everything you say and note that it is very pertinent to preserving Philadelphia. The “creative class” is essential to the success of our city. However, there are so many others who also do not have health insurance. I am sure everyone reading this has a family member or friend who is not covered. Many, many service workers to whom we owe the convenience of having a quick cup of coffee or take out meal, open gas stations in the middle of the night, and a clean office or house without your lifting a finger—do not have health insurance. Please be kind and considerate. Health insurance was very expensive before Obama ever came into office. I for one will write to Governor Corbett to protest this lack of action. If it passes, New York state is looking very attractive. Thanks for speaking your mind Nathaniel.

    • It’s not “insurance” if you’re not paying for it according to your level of risk. If you aren’t paying for it, that’s called a handout.

  11. Mr. Popkin isn’t expressing his support for some utopian dream, but a law passed by the United States Congress. Get over yourselves.

  12. An awful lot of people “without insurance” or “without healthcare” may not have health insurance, but they have super duper smart phones (I have 3G), super duper cable (I have basic), beautiful nails and hair (I go every eight weeks for a basic trim), they go on vacations (I do staycations) — they choose to buy the bells and whistles of life, neglecting the necessitites of life. Life’s a matter of choices. Not being self disciplined in those choices, and expecting the government to be “big daddy”, has led us to the over-regulation (and fraudulent practices)of the medical/insurance industry and has caused prices to escalate over the past twenty to thirty years. Big G – stay out of my life! I’d prefer to buy the insurance I want at competitive prices, just as I do with my auto insurance. I agree with Stephan, Alex and Keith: there’s a difference between healthcare and health insurance, make better choices and/or don’t bemoan the ones you’ve made, and keep politics unrelated to historic preservation out of this website.

    One more point – the federal government cannot run the post office, the state governments cannot run the DMV’s — do you REALLY expect them to be able to handle health coverage?!

  13. Corbett should be impeached and then imprisoned. He is robbing the people to support the super-rich. That is not a governor’s job description.

    • Exactly what money is he taking from “the people” to “support the super-rich”? Please be specific. What money is being taken, which money is then used to support the super-rich?

  14. How now, Stein! Well said. But…

    But, Dear N. Popkin, you see how far off the mark we are? The conversation has degenerated into partisan bickering.

    There is a now-famous George Booth New Yorker cartoon, in the which a man is sitting before his typewriter on a dilapitated porch with scads of crumpled “false starts” around him, clearly suffering “writer’s block”. He is surrounded by dogs–twenty or more–in various postures, scratching, tails thumping, tongues lolling, rolling on their backs, biting at fleas… Dogs, dogs, dogs.

    His wife bangs open the lopsided screen door and shouts, “Write about dogs!”

    I hope you take my point. –rf

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