Ky. lawmakers offer us hypocrisy, selfishness in health-care bills

Ernie Yanarella
Ernie Yanarella

The implosion of the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act brought to mind the iconic scene in Tennessee Williams “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

There, egged on by his son (Paul Newman) Big Daddy (played by Burl Ives) goes on a verbal rampage about the state of his world, which he characterizes as one of mendacity, lies and hypocrisy.

In the end, he asks whether there is nothing we can do but live with mendacity.

With the richest nation in the world eliminating its standing health-care program, we as citizens of this state and nation must ask Big Daddy’s question of ourselves.

How long are we going to be content to tolerate the venal, self-serving actions of the likes of Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul and Andy Barr who seem all too willing to dance to the tune of the wealthiest and most selfish while poor Kentuckians get poorer, the middle-class gets increasingly burdened and hollowed out, and senior citizens and the disabled become the target of eroding government assistance?

The astounding thing is that these supposed servants of the people are trying to do it in plain sight. Hardly any of the arguments put forth by Kentucky legislators hold any water, and independent checks on their claims marshal overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Paul’s opposition to the Affordable Care Act was simply grounded in the fundamentalist ideology extolling individual liberty while undercutting the very material foundations necessary for freedom to be real and meaningful.

So he was willing to sacrifice Obamacare on the altar of a set of antiquated ideas and principles divorced from the actual conditions of our political existence. Were they to be the basis of policy making, they would leave a crippled and penurious federal government at the mercy of powerful corporate and moneyed interests.

In his actions, McConnell has shown that his only concern is to mobilize naked power to enrich the larder of the very wealthy through lies, deception and skillful parliamentary procedures — and somehow to meretriciously cement his legacy as Senate majority leader.

Where is his humanity? Where is his conscience? Where is his sense of shame? Has he no shred of human decency and moral principle to recognize the web of deception and prevarications he is trying sell to his Kentucky constituents?

I have no doubt that his hero, Henry Clay, would condemn his underhanded tactics and his power-hungry grab for victory at any cost.

While Andy Barr sat on the sidelines cheering on his Kentucky comrades on the Senate side, his support for deep-sixing the Affordable Care Act earlier was no less despicable.

His hide-and-seek shenanigans attempting to avoid grassroots citizens in favor of Obamacare or its genuine improvement merely demonstrated his contempt for democracy. He denies the right of constituents to communicate with and petition their representatives over public opinions and grievances they would experience if the foolish actions of legislators went unchallenged.

While Barr has yet to reach millionaire status as many in the Senate have done, give him time and his continued cozying up to the big banks with legislation to further deregulate this sector of the economy to find the means to join this Republican club through political favors and verbal boot-licking for the very rich and irresponsible.

The statistics demonstrating the success of the Affordable Care Act in lowering dramatically those without health insurance in Kentucky offer a poignant and pointed commentary on the direction health-care reform needs to go.

Electing more Republicans and re-electing current GOP legislators and purveyors of mendacity is clearly not the solution to advancing the day when health-care protection becomes enshrined as a truly human right.

Kentucky citizens need to look in other political directions and to other candidates more honestly attuned to their pressing needs and daily sorrows.

Ernie Yanarella is a community activist and former chair of the University of Kentucky department of political science. He is currently on sabbatical doing fieldwork in China on its eco-cities.