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Learning at its Best

It Was Free for Me, But You Have to Pay

Marco Rubio thinks immigrants should come to the country the “right way,” like his parents who fled Cuba. However, Cubans get free green cards but Mexican immigrants get sent back. Apparently the “right way” doesn’t apply to a child from Juarez, whose family fled due to the drug wars.

Barack Obama thinks I should have to pay for health care even when paying for health care would bankrupt my family*. Never mind the fact that he is wealthy and the government still pays for his family’s health care. He will never have a child break a leg and wonder if it’s best to re-set it and miss a mortgage payment or take the child to urgent care. Apparently “universal health care” is paid for on the back of working class families rather than the shared taxation of an entire nation.

Mitt Romney thinks we should pay for our college education and our health care and pull ourselves up by the proverbial boot straps, but in his case, he gets the nifty trust fund boots and servants who will pull the straps up for him. Apparently hard work and determination are for those whose fathers weren’t CEOs of car companies and governors with tons of connections.

I mention this, because I teach immigrant students who are told with a condescending political tone that they need to do things “the right way.” They work hard. They believe the myth. It will be my job to make them “college and career ready” regardless of whether their legal status or economic background allow for it.

In a decade or two, when it doesn’t work out for them, they will be told that they simply didn’t work hard enough. It will be their fault they don’t have papers. It will be their fault they don’t have health care. It will be their fault they didn’t start multi-million dollar business. It will be their fault that they didn’t qualify for in-state tuition. They will be told that it wasn’t an accident of geography, but of low morals and a bad work ethic.

Because, ultimately, “you should work hard and quit asking for a handout” applies to those in poverty but not to those who make the laws and have things handed to them for free.

*Most progressives I know who celebrate Obamacare are middle class and not working class. They have two incomes equaling $70,000-100,000. They are not living off of $43,000 a year in a district where the family health plan is $2,000 a month. They have not researched it and found out that the cheapest health care is $1,200 a month with a deductible around $4,000. The system is rigged and it’s rigged against those who work hard for an ever-decreasing income.

About John Spencer

I teach. I write. I live. I want to do all three authentically.


7 thoughts on “It Was Free for Me, But You Have to Pay

  1. I found a postcard in a radical bookstore in Ithaca a few years ago that said, “To make the rich work harder, you pay them more; to make the poor work harder you pay them less.” The inability of those with privilege to understand what it’s like for those without is perhaps sometimes understandable, but that makes the injustice no less.

    There are two key words in the proper name for Obamacare: “Care” and “Affordable.” The word “care” makes clear the basic flaw in the whole concept–if caring is what health care is about, it can’t be run like a business. And the “affordable” part makes clear the injustice of not seeing that implication of what caring means: what’s affordable to Mitt Romney or Barak Obama or any of the few thousands of folks with a lot of money is not affordable to almost all of the rest of us.

    Posted by fmindlin | July 22, 2012, 2:37 am
    • Privilege is invisible to those who have it. Bumpersticker on my car for years.

      Awesome post John. As always, a righteous mix of big ideas packed into small anecdotes. Thank you.


      Posted by Kirsten | July 22, 2012, 1:27 pm
      • Thanks for the quote–I’m thinking of some of the exercises we used to do in feminist consciousness-raising sessions [remember those?] to make privilege visible, like the group lines up and all those who are in a target group, one by one as they are named, takes a step backwards, and we see who’s left on the white young male line.

        As to the obtuseness of Obamacare with regard to the actual implementation of “affordability,” John, I had the thought back when single-payer was still on the fringes of the discussion that it’s an unsexy and boring term, and that one alternative could be to call it “Final Payer,” which at least has a nice ring of the graveyard to it, and would require a very generous reading of the philosophy Obama brought to the health care debate, e.g. “OK, we’ll let all of you who have some insurance that they like keep it, and set up these exchanges and go through the sham of private insurance companies pretending they can make things ‘affordable,’ but ultimately, when someone doesn’t have anything available that they CAN afford, then the government pays. And now we just have to wait a few years for all the insurance rip-offs to be exposed and wither away…” We could get there…

        Posted by fmindlin | July 22, 2012, 3:05 pm
  2. The Affordable Care Act will bankrupt your family? I’m not understanding that part. Otherwise, a compelling piece.

    Posted by NanceConfer | July 22, 2012, 8:20 am
    • I’ll change that up a bit. I cannot afford health care. I will be fined for it. Being forced to pay for health care would bankrupt my family. The cheapest options are more than twice my mortgage payment. Pretty brutal. I can’t see anything about Obamacare that will actually keep costs down. The oligopoly continues without a viable public alternative and the Supreme Court thinks it’s okay to “tax” (a huge lie — it’s a fine) me for not paying for health care.

      I am bothered that progressives and liberals stick up for Obama. Between Obamacare and Race to the Top, he has proven that he is neither liberal nor progressive. I’m bothered by the number of fellow progressives who stick up for Obamacare with the argument that it is a “step in the right direction.” Wrong. It’s five baby steps in the wrong direction with a giant leap (making it mandatory) in the wrong direction.

      Posted by John T. Spencer | July 22, 2012, 9:26 am
  3. John, always the really fundamental and heartfelt scenarios and questions. I certainly don’t pretend to have answers – maybe a few suggestions …

    Equity is not the law and likely never will – whether it’s equity in distribution of riches or even taxes, whether it’s in opportunities or in true legal rights. We who care should never stop trying or caring but we shouldn’t get our hopes and expectations up! I know, a truly ugly picture …

    What I suggest will work best (has I believe in a few places) is a broadening of what I’ve been calling local Education Communities – still with one point of emphasis on local education issues but with others on community economic, social, and economic issues, with pride in and celebration of cultural heritage. If the school were to focus on PBL, there will be lots of opportunities to intermix these areas of need. And of course, I will argue the organized, motivated, and engaging efforts will gain attention, assistance, and support (the important, needed, and deserving kind – NOT the condescending kind) from beyond the community. Success will breed success, the frozen government individuals be damned!!!

    It may seem that the poverty you so vividly describe and deal with represents the areas of greatest need and they most certainly are. But don’t fool yourself, the “I did it myself and so should everyone else” neighborhoods have needs as well! But since those needs aren’t getting getting more money, they probably don’t even know what they need. The potential upside I’d suggest is greater for the poverty areas that for these uppity areas!

    When I was leading a program in a poverty pocket in a nearby city, it took two years to gain the trust of the students and their families with respect to opportunities beyond their neighborhoods. Why not a focus among the willing families (the others will join later) and upgrade the community through local control and pride – keeping it a location of choice!

    Posted by jcbjr9455 | July 22, 2012, 4:52 pm
  4. Actually, as I understand it, progressives favour something like the Canadian health care system, which doesn’t have premiums at all, and is genuinely universal – it pays all the costs, not 80 percent, there’s no deductible, and no upper limit on coverage. Those cheering Obamacare do so because it’s a positive step in that direction. But, as you point out, far from perfect. But note, it is not progressives who are insisting on keeping the private insurance infrastructure intact and charging you monthly fees. That would be the Republicans, who have fought universal health care every step of the way.

    Posted by Stephen Downes | July 23, 2012, 7:09 am

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