My great-grandfather was an incredible man. He kept his family fed and clothed at the expense of hard physical labor and long hours—for menial pay. To the uninformed observer, he was simply another body in America’s vast sea of blue collar laborers. To those who knew him, he was an honorable, upstanding, hardworking man who also once had lunch with Louis Armstrong, drove Amelia Earhart in a local parade and narrowly escaped becoming a victim of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In his mind, though, he wasn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary.
As a young man, he once held a job pumping a church’s organ at the going rate of 5 cents a Sunday. One week he decided he wanted to attend church in the pews for a change. He arrived, dressed in the same pair of overalls he wore while pumping the organ (the only pair of overalls he owned) and was swiftly asked to leave. He wasn’t dressed well enough to grace the pews.
“So,” he mumbled to himself, “I’m good enough to stand behind the organ in these overalls, but not good enough to sit in front of it in them?”
He vowed never to set foot in that church again.
Years later, his mother asked him to drive her to church in their only mode of transportation—a wagon. It was winter, and a storm was rolling in. Per his vow, he sat shivering in the blizzard outside the church… determined never to go in. With the years, however, had come changes in the church. Soon many members went to out greet him and bring him in. So terribly scarred by that first experience, he refused, and remained out in the cold. It wasn’t until years later in a conversation with his grandson—my father—that he revealed how burdened he had been by his actions. He was convinced that his refusal to accept the invitation that day at the wagon was unforgiveable. Thankfully my father was able to convince him that he was indeed forgiven. Nevertheless, the memory of that very public rejection on the basis of his looks (in a place that is supposed to welcome all, no less!) was burned into his heart and mind. The hypocritical church goers thought themselves better than their poorly dressed counterpart, and they made him feel like the dirt they treaded upon.
Etymologists differ as to its exact origins, but many say that the phrase “a cut above” originally referred to the “cut” of one’s clothing and the way it was made. “A cut above,” therefore, meant your clothes were well made—indicating your status in society. Today, we know it to mean anyone or anything that is simply better than others. In my great grandfather’s case, the arrogant church members considered themselves truly a cut above.
Many people have similar stories. From being mocked for one’s poverty, to being excluded for one’s race or lack of “position” in society, our world’s history is rife with examples. In certain extreme cases, there existed (and still do) man-made divides that separate the general populous from the “ruling class.”
In Revolutionary France, it was the bloody Comité de salut public or “Committee of 12.” For much of England’s history leading up to modern practices it was the Royal Family (think Henry VIII, Bloody Mary, etc.). In North Korea it’s Kim Jong Un and his family. History’s pages (as well as our daily newspapers) are full of portrayals of so called “ruling classes” that consider themselves better than the rest of the population; a class which lives by different rules; in fact, they create the rules but never consider that they themselves must abide by them.
The World’s Exception
The United States was supposed to be an exception to history, and with the exception of certain dark parts of our past—which we have boldly striven to entirely overcome—our nation has been a place where liberty and justice for all is a more than just a catch phrase, but a principle by which we operate.
With that said, we all understand the respect that is to be offered to those in authority over us. You wouldn’t walk up to the President of the United States and give him a pat on the back followed by a casual “Wassup dude” (though someone might want to inform the First Lady, whose famous lack of propriety with the Queen of England made headlines); you wouldn’t plop yourself down in your boss’ office and prop your feet up on his or her desk and you wouldn’t sail into your professor’s study speaking in a string of profanities, would you? These and many other examples are true—there is a certain level of respect and honor to be offered to those in positions of authority or power, whether it’s in our family, our work, or our lives in general.
What’s so great about this country, however, is that we know that no matter WHO we are (or aren’t), we know we’re to receive equal protection under the law. “Liberty and justice for all.” Whether it’s the president or the janitor, we all have to stop at stoplights, pay our taxes, and abide by all other laws. We also know that whether we’re born on the wrong side of the tracks or in a million dollar penthouse, we have the freedom to ascend through society’s ranks and attempt to achieve whatever we set out to do. We are equal—at least we’re supposed to be—under the law.
A Law for All… Sort Of
This week, the president’s healthcare program exchanges went into effect. Obamacare, as it is more commonly known, will require that all Americans (save for a select few privileged individuals we’ll meet in a moment) purchase insurance—a technically unconstitutional provision that for the first time in U.S. history requires a person to purchase a commodity just for being alive. This differs from, for example, car insurance, because one can choose not to own a car. Being alive, however, isn’t optional.
The Supreme Court, to the shock of many, ruled in favor of this controversial position and for the time being we’ve got to abide by it. Those in favor of the law use this landmark Supreme Court decision as the be-all-end-all proof that the idea of requiring an American to purchase something as a condition of being alive. They note that the Supreme Court is indeed the final authority of what is good and right . . . though, as a fellow blogger recently quipped, “The Supreme Court is never wrong, just ask Dredd Scott.” In other words, the Supreme Court messed up. Regardless, for the time being the law is what it is, and here’s what’s facing us:
Americans can either stick with their insurance if they have it (which is an option that’s swiftly disappearing) or they can sign up for the exchanges, which are technically supposed to provide consumers with a plethora of choices. Instead, as a former lieutenant governor of New York noted, it’s more like a “supermarket that only sells cereal.” Regardless, if you don’t have insurance through an employer or you haven’t purchased a plan on your own, you have to purchase one through the exchanges.
America’s Ruling Class
Remember those “privileged few” I said we’d meet later? America, meet your royalty.
Washington and our current leadership do not merely consider themselves a cut above; they believe and are absolutely certain that they are the ruling class. So many people in Washington make (or push for) the laws and have absolutely no intention of being obligated to follow them. Obamacare is no different.
Over the course of the budget debates, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was publicly given a chance to make good on his “commitment” to public servitude by agreeing to a GOP compromise that would have nullified the subsidies for Congress and their staff, as well as ended the exemption for the White House and staff. Oh, and in doing so, he’d avoid a government shutdown. This wasn’t the original “defund it” and/or “delay it” approach we saw over the last few days; this was simply “Ok Senator Reid, give up your exemptions and cushy subsidies and we’ll fund the whole government, including your stinkin’ law.”
He refused, and the government (at least symbolically) shut down.
What follows is equally frustrating. Thanks to a leak from Senator Harry Reid’s staff, we now have emails that seem to indicate that the Speaker of the House John Boehner met with Reid and the President to keep the subsidies and exemptions. One email even indicates that his office suggested that the meetings be disguised as something else.
Speaker Boehner, it is one thing to negotiate with the president and Harry Reid with the intention of bringing the continuation of Congressional subsidies for Obamacare to the table– but what precisely were you asking for in return? Be open and honest with the people who sent you to Washington. American’s citizens are depending on your leadership, and are wholly deserving of your open honesty about your motives, and your pretenses for such meetings. You were elected to maintain a strong stance to prevent progressive policies from destroying our nation. More importantly, you were elected to uphold principles.
Cushy Subsidies; Hypocritical Exemptions
“Congress gets a subsidy???” fumes the hardworking American whose family just lost their insurance due to cost. “The WHITE HOUSE gets an exemption??”
In keeping with the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act (which “applied to Congress the same civil-rights employment and labor laws that lawmakers had required everyday citizens to abide by.”) one thoughtful Senator (Chuck Grassley, (R) Iowa) had the foresight to push for similar principles to be applied to the Obamacare law. This provision required that Congress members and their personal staff MUST purchase their healthcare coverage through the exchanges.
Sounds fair, right? Those who pass the law should have to live by the law.
Not surprisingly, howls ensued. Howls, interestingly enough, which were quietly soothed when the President himself directed the Office of Personnel Management to “ interpret the law so as to retain the generous congressional benefits.”
In other words, Congress and their personal staff have to get their insurance through the exchange . . . but they all get to keep the generous subsidies they were previously receiving. In other words . . . they’re still getting their healthcare paid for while Americans are forced to buy theirs through the increasingly-expensive exchanges.
Down the road at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, “President Obama, the White House staff, Cabinet secretaries, and all of the Administration’s political appointees are exempt from any legal requirement to enroll in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges”
I don’t know about you, but Congressional leadership’s (on both sides) behavior makes me (as it should any living, breathing American) feel about as insignificant as my great grandfather did those many years ago. Not only is it a bad law, but we’re forced to abide by it while Washington doesn’t while funding their salaries and their pet projects with our taxes.
As William Bigelow of Breitbart.com put it yesterday, “Senate Democrats would not make a single, common-sense concession: tax dollars to insulate themselves from the very healthcare law they are forcing onto the country’s working class.” And, as today’s revelation shows, the House GOP was just as in on this Kabuki Theater as Reid & Company.
Since when did we crown a king? Do we elect politicians to work for us, or rule over us? Are the American people so beneath those WE elected that we’re to be forced to comply with law its own authors don’t want for themselves? It reeks of the very “class warfare” that Progressive America is constantly trying to pin on the American Right.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t want to see anyone on Obamacare. I’d rather see ALL Americans with the freedom to choose their insurance from a consumer based model that fosters competition (and thus lower prices and more selection). Despite its rampant unpopularity, and—based on today’s demonstrations— its highly unprepared platform, the disingenuously-named Affordable Care Act is the law of the land . . . until such time as we can repeal it.
Washington finagles its way into our votes, spends our money, and then wheedles its way out of equal obedience to the law. Isn’t it about time they—at MINIMUM—follow the same laws they put in place for us? After all, it’s a little hard to have a discussion about good laws or bad laws until it’s clear that they’re EVERYONE’S laws.
Just like my great grandfather bristled at being told he wasn’t good enough to sit in the pews in front of the organ (though he was good enough to stand behind it), we ought to bristle at the fact that we’re good enough to pay taxes to our government but somehow not good enough to for the same treatment the ruling class in Washington affords themselves. “What, so we’re good enough to pay taxes to fund your salaries, but somehow we’re not good enough to reap the same benefits?”
Call, email, Tweet, and Facebook the offices of every single legislature who bucked BOTH ruling classes in order to fight for our nation’s salvation, and for the end of the ruling class mentality in both parties. Thank them for their courage. Encourage them to stay true to the public service they were elected to carry out. Twitter has been ablaze with many trending hashtags this week; one of which is #MakeDCListen. We sent them there . . . they all work for us. It’s high time they all realize that they were elected, not ascended, and they’re Americans just like the rest of us. It can get frustrating, especially in today’s world in which it seems as though they listen less to us than they do to their own desires, but don’t give up. If we don’t raise a fuss, the selfish in D.C. will have already won. Both parties have been loyal to the Ruling Class they’ve created, and it’s time we make it clear to them that we’ve taken notice.
We are not a people to be “ruled;” we are a people who elect leadership to honestly and effectively manage the great gift entrusted to us all—our freedom. We fought a bloody revolution to rid ourselves of a ruling class that considered us to be second class citizens unworthy of a seat at the legislative table. Don’t let anyone sit there in Washington and act as kings and queens in an ill-fated game of chess. We certainly don’t want to start a war, but we do need to start a revolution against the country’s ruling class.