Taking the Base for Granted

Community Organizing Financial Justice Health Care

specter2Pittsburgh The G-20 was gone from Pittsburgh so it was back to normal as I passed through.  Signs to beware of deer on some streets in working and lower income neighborhoods were not just reminders of the hills all around the city, but the fact that it has shrunk to 260,000 people within the limits.  The new buildings along the river that replaced old steel mills have a nice sheen to them, but they moving from community to community, it was hard for me not to wonder whether or not the real citizens of the city were reaping any benefits there.  Work on an arena brought together a Pittsburgh United coalition of community groups and unions and did produce real commitments.  A soccer field being built with a beautiful view of the city for the University of Pittsburgh on the Hill seemed to be adding nothing.

All of this made me wonder about the comments in the papers that are putting real leverage around the healthcare debate in the hands of people like Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana where I vote.  Reportedly, Landrieu is buckling at the public option, and just as driving around Pittsburgh again made me wonder what was happening to the base, such a position in Louisiana is also a head scratcher given how many of the state’s citizens are working, but lower income, and have no insurance.

These perplexing “individual mandates” that might make lower income workers have to come up with a couple of grand per year as a penalty for not being insured would be a slap in the face to legions of voters especially in the cities of New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and Lake Charles who have been the margin of victory for Landrieu for years.  Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is a “new” Democrat in the sense that he has come into the party recently to hand on to his seat, but I wonder if he hasn’t traveled the same roads through the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, because the contrast with Landrieu is stark.  He’s saying he’s going to hold out for a “public option” to protect the poorest workers, and talking about reducing the mandate charges down to as low as 3% of income on the test.

Did I say this was all complicated?  Absolutely!  And, the more complicated, the more difficult it will be to make the deal.

But, the fine senators in every state need to take a look at their base and step up and represent finally!  The negotiations in the Senate may make great drama, but I bet the accountability back home is going to be real if the base is ignored.