Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More wisdom found in my local paper

Every now and then a good free-thinking voice speaks out over the conservative buzz that dominates Arizona:

Ignoring suffering of everyone who isn't Terri Schiavo

Mar. 29, 2005 12:00 AM

There is a con man's technique that politicians sometimes use to manipulate the public and never has it worked better than with Terri Schiavo.

The scheme involves making a very big deal about the plight of a single person to get us to ignore the plight of hundreds, thousands or even millions of others.

Two-bit hustlers use distraction and diversion techniques to lift your wallet or empty your bank account. Political flimflammers use the tragedy of a single family to distract you from the horror they are inflicting upon your friends and neighbors.

And it works. Dozens of e-mails asking (sometimes demanding) me to take up Schiavo's cause were waiting for me Monday after having spent last week on vacation. The megaphone being used by politicians in Washington, D.C., to rant about Schiavo drowns out discussion even in places as far away as Arizona.

And while I heard a lot about Schiavo, I didn't have a single e-mail expressing outrage over an Arizona budget proposal calling for cuts in child-abuse prevention programs and subsidies for the working poor.

Or for a plan not to increase the budget for the state's Child Protective Services. Even though such decisions are certain to condemn some Arizona children to death.

And while President Bush and Congress rushed to intervene in the Schiavo case, saying they were acting to preserve life, they were in no hurry to discuss their proposed cuts to Medicaid, which helps the poor. And they avoided talking about the tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance and how many of them will die for lack of it.

And that's just the beginning. The noise surrounding the Schiavo case overwhelms the misery of the many thousands who will suffer under Congress' latest bankruptcy law revisions.

It will no longer be easy for those who are financially ruined by an illness in the family, which is the majority of bankruptcies filed, to receive the protection they previously had under the law.

Nor would families like Schiavo's be able to collect large medical malpractice settlements under a president and Congress who are working hard to limit the amount of awards for such lawsuits.

Without the money from litigation to pay for their care how many other Terri Schiavos would be condemned to die?

In Florida, where Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, attempted to override the state courts on behalf of Schiavo's parents, I wonder how many citizens know about Bush's plan to eliminate portions of a program that helps gravely ill working people who are out of insurance money.

When Congress passed special legislation to allow the federal courts to get involved in the Schiavo case, the effort was led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. It turns out that 17 years ago DeLay agreed with family members to not allow doctors to use extraordinary means to extend the life of his father.

With Schiavo, however, DeLay said, "We should investigate every avenue before we take the life from a human being,"

President Bush cut short his vacation to return to Washington and sign the bill because he also felt that every avenue should be explored, even though Schiavo's condition has been unchanged for 15 years.

The purity of their motives might be less in question if they'd said the same thing in March 2003, when diplomats asked the United States to wait 45 more days before invading Iraq. They asked that we explore every avenue before starting a war that would take thousands of lives. The president and his partners in Congress said no.

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