I’m thankful to the unions for bringing this bill the attention it needs, but at the same time, the union protests is taking away from the fact that this bill does not just affect the unions. You see, it’s not just about the union. And it’s not abut the money. It’s about people.
As those of you who follow my blog and tweets know, I am a foster and adoptive mother. What you may not know is that my current dayjob is in the child care industry. I work for a non-profit agency whose mission is to ensure that every child has access to high quality early care and education. Many of the children who are in daycare come from low-income families — and their parents will be affected by this bill, either through the union changes or changes in Medical Assistance. Something else you may not know is that my previous dayjob was working with developmentally disabled adults in the community. Many of those adults rely on Medical Assistance to maintain a half-way decent quality of life.
I can’t be at the capitol every day protesting this bill, so instead I am tweeting and facebooking everything I can to bring attention to it. It is not just a union matter.
Don’t get me wrong: I do not disagree that the budget needs to be fixed. I do not disagree that there are reforms needed in Medical Assistance. I do not disagree that there are some changes needed in the unions. What I disagree with is the way those changes are made.
The changes in Medical Assistance on this bill are not reforms. The union has agreed to most of the demands the Governor has made about changes in the union — except for collective bargainning rights. The Governor’s bill is not about the budget. His bill is about busting the unions and sneaking other changes into the bill, such as taking over the purse strings of Medical Assistance. There is a popular quote that integrity is doing the right thing even when nobody is watching. When nobody was watching, and the man our Governor believed to be David Koch suggested bringing in outside troublemakers, Walker did not say, “Oh no Dave, I couldn’t do that. That’s just wrong.” No. He said he had “thought about that” — and the only reason he did not, was because he feared the move would backfire. He considered putting our first responders at risk to discredit the protesters and advance his own political agenda.
I’m off my point though. I wanted to tell you about the people this is going to affect. It’s not just Joe the Plumber. It’s not just my daughters’ school teachers. It’s children in the foster care system, and children and adults in the disability community. As a foster mother and former personal care worker, I’ve met and worked with many of these people. Let me tell you about some of them.
T has severe cerebral palsy. She cannot speak. She cannot feed herself. She cannot wipe herself. She cannot walk. When she’s feeling spunky, she can crawl around on her hands and knees. I know this because I have fed her and I have wiped her. She relies on aides to assist her with almost everything. She relies on Medical Assistance for her wheelchairs and assistive communication devices. Without Medical Assistance, her the quality of her life will be severely altered.
S also has cerebral palsy. The muscles in her legs are so tight that her feet are turned inward at all times. She uses a wheelchair but when she’s feeling spunky (which was quite often when I worked with her), she is at least able to hobble around on her feet. She is deaf however, and relies on a pidgin sign language to communicate. She can use her vocal chords more than T but she can still be difficult to understand. She lives ‘independently’ in subsidized housing with aids who come in from time to time to help her with various tasks. Her quality of life will also be adversely impacted by this bill.
R has Down syndrome. As with many people who are afflicted with Down Syndrome, he also has a heart condition. He can’t engage in anything more strenuous than walking around for more than about ten minutes at a time. He wears a medial alert bracelet around his write with a Do Not Resuscitate order on it. My greatest fear while I was working with R was that something would happen to him and I would have to stand by and watch him die. Because of his health condition, he must carry an oxygen tank with him at all times. In the year or so that I worked with him, his use of the oxygen kept increasing as his heart condition kept worsening. Without Medical Assistance, he would not be able to receive the care he needed to maintain what quality of life he has been able to enjoy.
E went into foster care when she was two years old. She has experienced early neglect and sexual abuse. These have long-lasting and sometimes debilitating effects on the brain of a young child. Because of Medical Assistance, she has been able to have continuous therapy with the same therapist for the last seven years. During those seven years, she has lived in at least three different homes. She has only she begun to make real strides in her therapy over the past two years. Despite being shuffled from home to home, she has been able to have continuity in her therapy — but if she loses her Medical Assistance, the cost of this therapist may become too prohibitive to continue therapy with her because her current family’s medical insurance does not cover this therapist.
I wanted to show you one more boy from foster care who has been on the list of adoptable kids ever since we moved to Wisconsin in 2005. He’s not on the list any longer. He had a medical condition which stunted his growth and affected his organs so much that he had to be hooked up to oxygen at all times. I don’t know if he’s off the list now because he was adopted, or if his condition finally got the best of him. I pray that he was finally adopted. But Medical Assistance is the reason why he was alive.
Then there are the low-income moms that many of you love to hate. The ones who “just spit out children and expect you and I to foot the bill for their health care and the health care of their numerous children.” I don’t disagree on the irresponsibility of this, however, it is not the children’s fault — and it is the children who will be affected. I don’t like the irresponsibility and abuses in welfare and medical assistance, but punishing the children is not the appropriate answer.
Please understand, this is not just a union issue. This is much much more. And it is unfairly targeting people who are already disenfranchised, people who don’t have a voice in politics. As a Christian, I like to believe in the basic goodness of people. I like to believe that everybody is trying to do the right thing. The political rhetoric in this country makes me sick. The name-calling and demonizing, from all sides, is disheartening. I like to believe that even when someone is doing something I disagree with, they still think they are doing the right thing. However, I am coming to believe that Governor Walker deliberately snuck some of these measures into this bill because he knew that the union-busting efforts would get all the media attention, and hoped that these other measures would be ignored by the media, and by you, the voting public. He almost succeeded, and still might; I pray that he does not.